A master stock or master sauce (simplified Chinese: 卤水; traditional Chinese: 鹵水; pinyin: Lǔshuǐ) is a stock which is repeatedly reused to poach or braise meats. It has its origins in Chinese cuisine and is typically used in Cantonese and Fujian cuisines. Foods poached or braised in the master stock are generally referred to as lou mei.
Master stocks are typically begun by simmering meat and bones with typical Chinese ingredients, namely water, soy sauce, rock sugar and Shaoxing or rice wine. Other commonly added spices and flavourings include scallions, shallots, star anise, dried citrus peel, cassia bark, sand ginger, Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger, and dried mushrooms.
Once the base stock has been prepared, it is then used as a poaching or braising liquid for meat. Chicken is the most common meat that is cooked in a master stock, although squab, duck, quail, and pork are also often used.
The defining characteristic of a master stock from other stocks is that after initial use, it is not discarded or turned into a soup or sauce. Instead, the broth is stored and reused in the future as a stock for more poachings. With each use, the poached meats and other ingredients absorb the stock's flavor while imparting their own back into the stock. In this way, over time, flavour accumulates in the stock, making it richer and more complex with each poaching, while subsequent poached meats absorb this flavor and likewise become more flavorful.
In non-Chinese cultures
Many oden restaurants keep their broths as master stocks, straining them nightly to maintain their lightness and clarity even as their flavors grow in complexity.
The Bangkok restaurant Wattana Panich has kept the broth for its beef stew and beef noodle soup as a master stock for over forty years since moving to its current location.
Between August 2014 and June 2015, Louro, a New York restaurant under the direction of chef David Santos, created dishes from a master stock. As part of the restaurant's social media presence, the stock was dubbed "Perpetual Stu" (a pun on "perpetual stew") and had its own Twitter account, highlighting new ingredients as it developed.
After use, if the master stock will not be immediately reused, it is usually boiled, skimmed, strained and cooled quickly to kill any microorganisms in the stock. The growth of microbes in the stock can potentially spoil the flavour of the stock or pose a health risk. The stock is then refrigerated or frozen until required. Refrigerated stocks may be kept for up to three days, while frozen stocks may be kept for up to a month. If the stock is to be kept longer it must be boiled before being returned to storage.
In theory, a master stock could be sustained indefinitely if due care is taken to ensure it does not spoil. Otafuku, an oden restaurant in Japan, has kept its broth simmering since 1945 (an earlier batch was destroyed in WWII). There are claims of master stocks in China that are hundreds of years old, passed down through generations of cooks in this way.
- ^ master stock@Everything2.com
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- ^ Spacey, John (19 January 2014). "Oden: Japanese Stew in a 60 Year Old Broth". Retrieved 10 February 2019.
- ^ Flatley, Helen (26 September 2018). "The Restaurant Serving 40 Year-Old Beef Stew". The Vintage News. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
- ^ Kravitz, Melissa (26 January 2015). "It's alive! Chef David Santos' stew never stops evolving at Luoro". AM New York. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
- ^ Sterling, Justine (28 January 2015). "Why You Shouldn't Be Terrified of This Never-Ending Stew". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
- ^ Mastbaum, Blair (2022-12-15). "The 'Perpetual Broths' That Simmer For Decades". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2022-12-22.