The translucent, orange condiment that is known as ‘Duck Sauce’ in America, is chiefly made from plums, and supposedly is so named as it is similar to a plum-based sauce sometimes served with Peking Duck. We have the same sauce here in Canada, where it is almost de rigeur with Egg Rolls, but most of us, perhaps a bit unimaginatively, simply call it ‘Plum Sauce’.
Almost twenty years ago, living in the far north, I tried to replicate the restaurant classic but found plums completely unavailable. I was able to buy cantaloupe, though, and I used this instead with very nice results. Since then, I have always made my ‘plum sauce’ with cantaloupe out of choice rather than necessity, and I think it every bit as good the sauce you get in those little plastic packets with Chinese take-out. It is also way easier, I have to say, to make a sauce using a single cantaloupe rather than having to de-stone and peel a crap-load of plums.
A Note of the Ingredients
Try and buy nice ripe Cantaloupe with good color. If you are unable to locate any except those that are not yet very sweet, or exceedingly pale, don’t worry too much as you can adjust for both taste and color later during the cooking process.
I have not listed soy sauce as an ingredient (and I didn’t use any for this batch) but in past recipes, I have sometimes used a splash or two to improve the color when the cantaloupe and other ingredients produced a very insipid, pale result. . Likewise, the lemon juice may or may not be needed, but if the acid balance is a little lopsided near the end of cooking time, a little lemon juice rather than more vinegar adds a nice tartness.
Plum Sauce is not a ‘hot sauce’ as such but most varieties have a little chili bite, so add as much or as little as you please. I have specified coarsely ground flakes rather than a powder as the little flecks of red add to the final appearance of the finished sauce.
The Basic Method for making Cantaloupe Sauce
Once you have peeled, seeded, and diced your melon, the next step is to add the chopped onion and garlic cloves to the bowl of your food processor along with the ginger paste and salt. Whiz everything to a puree, adding a little water to keep the blades turning if necessary. The paste that results, is, by the way, the typical base for a whole range of curries, although that is a story for another day …
The next step is to heat a little oil in a deep pot over medium heat and add the onion paste along with powdered clove and cinnamon. You sauté this for a few minutes until the flavors are blending nicely and the aroma fills your kitchen.
The cantaloupe, sugar, vinegar and chili are added next, and everything is cooked together at a low simmer for an hour or so. If necessary, you can add a little water if the sauce starts to dry out more than you would like.
When the cantaloupe is really soft and everything is nicely cooked, puree using an immersion blender until smooth. Now, you should taste the blend, adjusting for salt, sweet and sourness and, if necessary, cook the mix down a little longer until the consistency is like that of an apple sauce. At this point, the product is ready for most uses, and you can transfer it to suitable jars for storage in the refrigerator.
Sometimes, you may want to refine the sauce a little so that it is smoother and presents a better appearance for presentation purposes (as a drizzle, for instance). In that case, you can use a food-mill, or just pass it through a kitchen sieve.
Using the Cantaloupe Sauce
Obviously, the sauce can be used anywhere that a plum sauce might be used… as a condiment for egg rolls, or spring rolls, or the like, being the most common deployment. It does, however, also make a very nice glaze for roasting ribs, and I have frequently used it as the sauce for a number of curries and stir-fried dishes. As a dipping sauce, or similar type of condiment, it can be used alone, or else blended with other ingredients in an almost infinite number of ways.
Your Recipe Card:
- 1 small Cantaloupe peeled, de-seeded, and diced;
- 1 small Onion chopped;
- 20 Garlic Cloves;
- ¼ cup Ginger Paste;
- 1 Tbsp. Salt;
- ½ tsp. each powdered Cinnamon and Clove;
- 1 cup each of Sugar and Vinegar;
- ¼ cup coarsely ground Chili
- 3 – 4 Tbsp. Lemon juice or to taste;
- Add the chopped onion and the garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor along with the ginger paste and salt. Whiz everything to a puree, adding a little water to keep the blades turning if necessary.
- Heat a little oil in a deep pot over medium heat and add the onion paste along with the powdered spices. Saute for a minute or two to allow the flavors to blend.
- Add the cantaloupe, the sugar, the vinegar and the chili and turn the heat to low. Cook everything at a low simmer for an hour or so, adding a little water from time to time if the mix looks a little dry.
- When the cantaloupe is soft and breaking down, purée until smooth. Taste the blend, adjusting for salt, sweet and sourness and, if necessary, cook the mix down a little longer until the consistency is like that of an apple sauce.
- Cool and transfer to suitable jars for refrigeration as is, or, if desired, ass the purée through a fine strainer to produce a smoother sauce.