As I sit down in a Chinese restaurant and start to look over the usually large and comprehensive menu, my eyes are immedeately drawn to the “Chef’s Sauce” or the “Chef’s Special Sauce” items. Usually, different proteins are offered in the special sauce that I suppose is meant to be the specialty of the house. That magic sauce is often what draws people to a restaurant, although I must confess that I rarely every order anything in the special sauce.
At home, in my mother’s kitchen, there are many things that are the house specialties I crave and for which I come home for. It has become a tradition that when my parents expect us for a visit, they call and ask what we’d like to eat. Usually, I don’t make many requests because as I put it “beggars aren’t choosers” and everything is typically delicious. However, on occasion when we’ve stayed away long or when I crave comfort, I request “Sous“. In Russian, it simply means “sauce”, but it is much more than that. It is a dish onto itself, a complete meal that leaves me stuffed to the brims with content and happiness. To this day, I do not know if whether I love “Sous” because of the dish or because my mom made it.
What is it? you may ask. Well, if you remember, I spent the first nine years of my life in Baku, Azerbaijan. There, my mother learned local specialties and among them is a dish they call “Sous”. The dish is essentially a summer-time chicken stew with eggplants, tomatoes, and red peppers. Through the modern miracle (or plague) of hothouses and refrigeration, we now make it year-round. It is a one-pot wonder which is easy to assemble and cook. The flavors are delicate, and the chicken and vegetables are succulent. I’ve gotten the recipe and tried to cook it on my own, but even though delicious, it does not compare to the genuine article.