Elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage

    Making of Traditional Chinese Sauces


    The elements that are usually named as indispensable for domestic livelihood in traditional Chinese culrure consist of firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea, which are also called the “seven necessities”, with elements such as sauces and vinegar being described as essential condiments for Chinese cooking. Macao has a long history of making traditional Chinese sauces, with the local sauce brewing industry continuing to follow traditional methods. The diversity of local sauces consumed by residents includes soy sauce, dark soy sauce, soybean sauce, plum sauce, chili sauce, fermented red bean curd, black vinegar, Zhejiang red vinegar and food-grade lye water, depending on the type of sauces available for each season. Soy sauce and dark soy sauce, for example, are made from soybeans, sugar and salt through a series of procedures that include boiling yellow beans, adding salt and sugar to ferment, sun-drying and other processing phases. Due to their similarity in ingredients and production techniques, traditional sauces in Macao are usually sold next to preserved fruits.


    Conservation Status:

    In the old days, Macao still had available land plots for the sun-drying and storage of ingredients related to the production of traditional sauces for the local sauce brewing industry. In the 20th century, Macao had the capacity, not only to ensure sufficient supply for the local sauce market, but also for the export of traditional sauce products. However, with development and globalization, land resources gradually became more unavailable, resulting in the decline of the local sauce brewing industry. Nowadays, there are only a few shops left in Macao that continue to have traditional production factories related to traditional sauces. Fortunately, locally produced traditional Chinese sauces still remain very popular, particularly among local restaurants and food supply shops.


    Heritage Value:

    Traditional Chinese sauces are a characteristic food item that has regional and seasonal qualities. The making of traditional Chinese sauces requires techniques that are also representative of the resilience and transmission of Chinese food culture in Macao. The complex nature of these techniques, the variety of different sauces that it produces, and the development of this traditional industry are of significant value also for the study of local folk food culture and a better understanding about the economic development of Macao itself.

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