The Use-On-Everything Sauce I Swear By for Air Frying

Bowlcut's Char Siu BBQ sauce is nothing short of a weeknight dinner miracle.

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December 28, 2022
By: Dakota Kim

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Photo by: Photo c/o Bowlcut

Photo c/o Bowlcut

Making char siu from scratch is a lot of work. You’re looking for the perfect balance of rich, sweet, sour, tangy and smoky, with a punch of umami. Getting there using a conventional oven and a homemade sauce is a lot of work, and I might make it from scratch once a year.

That’s why, when the craving strikes on a weeknight, I use the store-bought char siu sauce from Bowlcut. Bowlcut’s Char Siu BBQ sauce makes it easy for me to whip up a flavorful meal during the week without having to measure any ingredients at all. Plus, it’s free of additives and high fructose corn syrup, and I can use it in my air fryer. How’s that for a weeknight win?

What to Know About Char Siu BBQ Sauce

Bowlcut is a pandemic-born line of all-natural sauces and stars a little magic-maker called Char Siu BBQ, a classic Chinese flavor combined with just the right amount of sauciness. All of Bowlcut’s sauces are vegan and contain no additives like the red food coloring so often found in store-bought char siu sauce. They’re also lower in sodium and sugar than a lot of barbecue sauces because co-founder Crystal Ung wanted to make sauces her parents could have. The Char Siu BBQ sauce contains only five grams of sugar per serving, and while it has 340 milligrams of sodium, one tablespoon really packs a punch, so you don’t need a lot.

If you’re looking for a spicier condiment, Bowlcut’s two chili crisps don’t have any xantham gum like a lot of hot sauces. The chili crisp is even lower in salt and sugar than the Char Siu BBQ sauce, at less than a gram of sugar and 45 milligrams of sodium per serving (also one tablespoon). Made with málà chili flakes, Korean chili, onion, and California garlic, this is a drizzle-on-everything treat.

The Spicy Chili Crisp is two-and-a-half times hotter than the classic Chili Crisp, adding fruity, warming Thai chilis for extra fire. Endorphins, anyone?

How to Use Bowlcut’s Sauces in an Air Fryer

What’s great is that you don’t have to marinate your main in the Char Siu BBQ sauce — it’s a slatherer. Lightly brush it onto your protein (or your cauliflower or tofu) and throw it into your air fryer. After air-frying for a few minutes, you can take your main out and lightly brush it again for extra flavor. You can also put some sauce on the side as dip or as a finishing sauce.

If you have time, you can also marinate your protein in a Stasher or Ziploc bag using the Char Siu BBQ sauce for deeper flavor before cooking — a move I so rarely have time to do! But even without marinating, you’ll have great flavor from this pungent sauce. Use it as both a marinade and a dressing or seasoning.

With the two chili crisps, you can either mix them with other sauces as a marinade or drizzle them on top of everything. They’re even great blended into pesto and fried with stir-fry.

Cauliflower becomes wonderfully crisp and toasty with the two chili crisps, especially after roasting in an air-fryer. Pork is magnificent, breaded or plain, when marinated in the Char Siu BBQ.

Photo by: Photo c/o Bowlcut

Photo c/o Bowlcut

Who Should Buy This Versatile Sauce?

If time is of the essence but big flavors are important to you, these sauces are the weeknight solution you need. So much food can taste bland without the proper seasoning, especially meat and proteins, and milder veggies like cauliflower and jackfruit. Bowlcut’s Char Siu BBQ is the magic formula for all the veggies and even the vegan wings I make these days. Then, I drizzle a bit of chili crisp on top and dinner is ready.

If it’s also important to you to support Asian Americans owning Asian American food businesses, it’s wonderful to be able to support Bowlcut. Drizzle, marinate and slather away!

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