One of my favorite things about cooking for people with dietary restrictions is developing personalized recipes. This sauce was born a couple years ago, when I used to cook for a client who was soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free, and dairy-free. Some people might conclude that your standard American-style Chinese food was out of the question, since it’s normally loaded with soy and sugar. But I had a feeling that wasn’t the case.
One week, the menu leant itself to an Asian-style glaze. I knew I could replace the soy component and some of the sugar with coconut aminos, which is not only a great soy-sauce substitute but also lends a nice sweetness to marinades and sauces. For the rest of the sugar, I decided to use just a little bit of mandarin orange juice. Next, I added a touch of toasted sesame oil and boiled those three simple ingredients together until…voila…I had a soy-free, sugar-free Asian-style glaze. And I couldn’t stop eating it…
This recipe uses a very similar procedure to yield the brown sauce, but instead of mandarin juice, I’ve used navel oranges. These have a lower sugar content than mandarins, so the glaze takes a bit longer to reduce and becomes more of a sauce (as opposed to a sticky glaze) once you toss it with your broccoli. (By the way, I’ve also chosen to roast the broccoli, which I find is one of the easiest ways to get perfectly cooked, crispy-but-not-oily, lovely little florets!)
Since this dish is so simple (you basically roast some broccoli – easy peasy – boil the three ingredients to make your brown sauce – even easier – and toss the two components together), I decided you’ll definitely have the time and energy to make some awesome crispy ginger to really take this dish over the top. Believe me, it’s well worth the extra 5 minutes!
A couple notes about the recipe:
-My preferred brand of coconut aminos is Coconut Secret. I’ve had other brands that taste quite different and may not work for this recipe.
-This will serve 2-3 as a side dish. If you aren’t soy free, you can add in some fried or baked tofu and serve it over your favorite grain for a heartier meal.
-The predominant flavor here is neither orange nor sesame – I don’t think most people would even guess those ingredients are included. It tastes like a brown sauce!
Chinese-Style Broccoli with Brown Sauce and Crispy Ginger (Soy-Free & Sugar-Free!)
- 1½ pounds broccoli, cut into medium florets
- Neutrally-flavored oil, for roasting
- 2/3 cup coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice
- Crispy ginger (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Toss the florets in the oil, then lay out on the sheet tray. Roast for about 18-20 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut aminos, toasted sesame oil, and freshly-squeezed orange juice in a medium saucepan. When the broccoli has about 10 minutes left, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and boil until a glaze consistency is reached and mixture has reduced to about ½ cup, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, add the broccoli to the saucepan, and stir to coat. Then ladle into your serving dish – you can leave any extra sauce in the pot or spoon it over your grain, if you’re serving one – and scatter the crispy ginger over the top.
- A generous 1/8 cup ginger strips (ginger that has been peeled and cut into thin strips)
- Neutrally-flavored vegetable oil with a high smoke point, for frying (grapeseed, safflower, etc.)
Pour enough oil into the bottom of a skillet so that when the ginger strips are added, the oil will come about halfway up the strip (the exact amount of oil depends on the size of the skillet you are using.)
Heat the oil over medium heat for a couple minutes, until ripples appear in the oil. Test the heat by dropping one ginger strip in – if it sizzles immediately, it is ready. Add the ginger strips and let them sizzle until darkened and crisp – about 1-1 ½ minutes. Once you see some darkness appear on the edge of the ginger, shake the pan so both sides get crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel lined plate.