It’s always fun to see how food’s change from its origin and become a different kind of classic in another region. ShaCha is an adaptation of SE Asia’s “Satay/ Sa Te”. It was brought to ChaoZhou(潮州), China and people there made it their own. When the ROC government brought their soldiers to Taiwan, the sauce came with it and was adapted again. ShaCha is a sauce made from many many things… think of it like curry paste. It’s consists of a wide range of spices and ingredients, often dried seafood.
SHACHA (沙茶) and SATE (沙嗲)
Though shacha was an adaptation of sate, they taste nothing alike. Sate is often made with creamy or crunchy peanuts and is much sweeter than shacha. Sate is most popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, while shacha is more common in Hokkien, Chaozhou of China and in Taiwan.
Sate sauce uses spices like galangal, turmeric, coconut milk, palm sugar, coriander seeds, and cumin with roasted peanuts- resulting in a sweet and nutty paste; while shacha sauce extracts flavors from dried seafood, a bit spicy and is more savory.
Making Shacha is quite labor intensive. Each ingredient/spice have to be roasted then ground up then fried with oil at low heat one at a time until it all comes together as one.
Popular ShaCha Sauce Brand
There are many versions of shacha, in Taiwan “Bull Head Brand” (牛頭牌) is the most popular. They make use of dried halibut, shrimps and omits peanuts in their recipe, adds a little “surf” to any recipe you’re making.
What to do with Shacha
Though the label of the can often say “BBQ Sauce”, this sauce is so much more complicated than that. It’s used in stir-fry, simple dipping sauce, BBQ sauce, noodle broth, and sometimes in hotpots. It’s a very versatile seasoning and adds depths to cooking.