Quick Chinese Soy Braising Liquid

"Secret sauce" braising liquid

Soy braising liquid 卤水 (lǔ shuǐ) is the secret ingredient in my Wuhan hot dry noodles 热干面. It’s the rich, flavorful, umami-ful liquid left over from simmering meat for hours in soy sauce and spices.

Soy braising liquid 卤水 forms the backbone of the national dish of Taiwan, braised pork rice 卤肉饭 (lǔ ròu fàn). You can reuse the liquid over and over when braising to form 老卤 (lǎo lǔ “old braise”). Reserve the braising liquid from your last batch and add additional water, soy sauce, and spices every time you make new soy-braised meat 卤肉.

But sometimes the craving for hot dry noodles hits and there’s no time to simmer meat for hours. If you don’t have any 老卤 in the freezer, here’s how you can make it happen in a matter of minutes.

Gelatin makes it delicious

Soy braising liquid 卤水 is particularly delicious because of the richness from hours of simmering. The collagen in the connective tissue and tough bits of the meat break down into gelatin, which gives soy braising liquid it’s lip-smacking goodness. The addition of packaged powdered un-flavored gelatin 明胶 (míng jiāo) in this recipe is the secret to that cooked-for-hours mouthfeel in a fraction of the time. I use Knox brand, which lives next to the Jello in the baking/desserts aisle in most grocery stores. Gelatin is also a great way to perk up sad store-bought chicken broth (cr. to Serious Eats for the stock tip).

The rest of the spices are identical to what I use in my own soy braise. I add the precious old braise from the freezer, water, soy sauce, and the spices as below whenever I’m in the mood for delicious soy-braised chicken drumsticks, pork ribs, or beef shank.

Use this secret sauce for hot dry noodles. Or simmer some ground pork for a quick weeknight riff on Taiwanese braised pork rice. Or make it to jump-start your own old soy braise!

"Secret sauce" braising liquid

Secret Sauce: Soy “Un-Braising” Liquid 独家秘诀:懒人版卤水

The best option for Wuhan hot dry noodles 热干面 is the leftover braising liquid from soy-braised beef 卤肉. This recipe will give you that authentic umami flavor and glossy mouthfeel without simmering meat for hours. 正宗武汉热干面一定要用卤水。无需长时间熬制,无需任何肉材。30分钟简单做出味道鲜口感好的懒人卤水!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 3 cups


  • saucepan or other small pot


  • 1 cinnamon stick 桂皮,1片
  • 3 star anise 八角,3颗
  • 3 bay leaves 香叶,3片
  • ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns 花椒,½汤勺
  • 2 slices ginger 生姜,2片
  • ¼ orange peel such as navel orange, including white pith 橙皮,1小片
  • 10 whole cloves optional 丁香,10颗
  • 1 black cardamom pod optional 草果,1颗
  • 1 qt stock or broth cold or room temperature, or substitute water 高汤或清水,1升
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (7g) like Knox, optional but highly recommended 食用明胶,7克


  • If using gelatin: bloom gelatin — whisk gelatin in with cold stock/broth/water, and let stand for 3-5 minutes
  • Bring stock/broth/water to a boil. Add all spices (everything before stock in the list above), and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Strain out and discard the whole spices
  • Add soy sauces and gelatin, and simmer until total volume has reduced by at least 1/3, about 10 minutes


You only need 1 Tbsp of this liquid for one serving of Wuhan hot dry noodles 热干面, but it makes all the difference. You can reserve the extra for future use, it freezes well.
Keyword sauce

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