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Uncle Ho's Most Decidedly Eastern Finishing Sauce


16 ounces apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons Phu Quoc brand nuoc nam
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

As a long time aficionado of Eastern North Carolina style barbeque, I have been intrigued by the origins of the vinegar/red pepper sauce used by the pit masters in that region. It is unique among all barbeque finishing or dipping sauces in that in contains no tomato extracts--owing to the fact that, at the time of it's origins in the 1600s and 1700s, tomatoes were thought to be poisonous. What was used instead was "English Ketchup", a concoction containing cider vinegar, red peppers, spices, and oysters. This basic blend is in use to this day with one notable exception--the oysters have been discarded. Well, I got to wondering what that original barbeque might have tasted like, seasoned with the English Ketchup of the time. Having no reference and no clue as to how oysters were incorporated into the original mix, I instead decided to substitute nuoc nam--a Vietnamese fish sauce made from fish extract, water, and salt. While I cannot say this is an exact replication of the nation's original barbeque finishing and dipping sauce, it is in all likelihood a pretty decent semblance of what our colonial ancestors seasoned their barbeque with. In addition, it's also pretty damn tasty, IMHO--complementing, rather than masking, the smoky rich sweetness of slow cooked barbeque. Simply combine all ingredients, and let alone to marry for one or two days before using. If you use it as a finishing sauce, add about 12 ounces of the sauce to roughly three pounds of smoked and pulled pork barbeque in a cast iron pan, add water to cover, and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce *just* barely oozes over the barbeque when pressed down upon with a spatula. Or, just mix with smoked and pulled pork barbeque before serving if using as a dip. Enjoy! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - NOTES : It is very important to use authentic Vietnamese nuoc nam in this recipe--that is, a nuoc nam made in Vietnam, with Phu Quoc brand being considered the best brand widely available. Nuoc nam made in Thailand tends to be too coarse and salty in taste to blend well with the other ingredients, and thus produces too much of a pronounced fish and salt taste to suit fine barbeque.

Yield: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 0:00

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