Why are Chinese take-out restaurants so stingy with duck sauce?

I’ve noticed this all my life, actually…but it seems that every time I get a Chinese takeout or delivery order, or know of someone else who gets a Chinese takeout or delivery order, the order comes with about 500 packs of soy sauce but maybe two or three packs of duck sauce (or, as they call it in some places, “sweet and sour sauce”)…I’ve even asked for EXTRA duck sauce at times, and still gotten no more than two packs.

I’ve been to Chinese restaurants in many places – Illinois, New Jersey, California, Nevada, Wisconsin…and it seems to be universal.

At first I thought maybe they worry about you ruining the flavor of the food (one of the reasons a hot dog joint won’t put ketchup on your hot dog), but if that were true, they wouldn’t give you a seemingly lifetime supply of soy sauce.

Seems to me the only way to get a good supply of duck sauce is, when they’re not looking, to go over to one of the tables and squirt some from a squeeze bottle into a hidden container you bring with you.

Maybe duck souce is more expensive? That being said I have noticed several places that won’t even give you soy sauce unless you ask and forget about an extra napkin. Although the trend seems to have gone, Chinese sit down places used to never offer free soda re-fills.

Have you ever tried to milk a duck?

I’ve never noticed this.

Typical Chinese take-out joints work like McDonalds or other fast-food franchises. They are using the same distributor and are, essentially, all part of the same organization. Menus vary little, and even signage has become standard.

So, if duck sauce is more expensive (and I suspect it is when compared to basic soy sauce), then I would expect all the take-out joints to be careful with it, just as McDees or BK are stingy with certain dipping sauces.

Soy sauce most cost pennies per gallon.

Moving to Cafe Society from GQ.

General Questions Moderator

I bet THAT quack would echo.

Sweet & Sour Sauce is 3 times as expensive as soy sauce. See here for details. Although Duck Sauce is only twice as expensive.

The bottom line is cost.

I think it’s kind of hard to compare for certain, with all the different brands on that page. The only soy that’s cheaper than duck sauce, that I see, is Kimlan brand (which is as generic looking as I’ve ever seen). And that sweet and sour is 12 grams, while the duck sauce is 9 grams, so basically the sweet and sour sauce is the same price.

You may still be right, it’s just that I wouldn’t necessarily draw that conclusion with that data.

As for me, I’ve never noticed a lack of sweet-and-sour sauce in Chinese take-out–perhaps even felt the opposite–but that could be because I don’t like sweet-and-sour. I feel like the mustard is always skimped on. And, yes, soy is always way overdone.

I don’t care – we always throw it out, anyway.

In our household Duck Sauce is considered an abomination.
We generally throw out the Soy sauce, too. We use hot oil and mustard as condiments.

We have our own condiments at home and do not wanna be wasteful, so we ask for no packets. Our local Chinese restaurant seems almost insulted by this.

I ask for house mustard and house chili sauce (or house hot pepper).

These are batches made at the location, by the staff, and are usually plopped into a little plastic cup with lid.

House mustard is usually fantastic. It has a pungency that doesn’t last when it is packaged.

we bought a jug of duck sauce at our favorite chinese grocery in hartford. We don’t actually do much takeout, but making eggrolls is relatively easy [though we bake instead of deep fry] Crab rangoon not so much, they need deep frying =(

Duck sauce is also good in place of mango chutney on apple slices dipped in welsh rarebit.

Another good party trick to do is:

mix just a little pineapple juice into the duck sauce for a bit of zip to it and use it as a dip

mix a dab of grated horseradish to wispread cheddar cheese to make ‘bar cheese’ for a party spread

mix a dab of horseradish to duck sauce to make it spicier as a party dip

Confirmation bias? I’ve never been shorted duck sauce ever. My experiences cover NY and CA.

This could be in part, or regionally customers tend to use/need less perhaps. I’ve never noticed a shortage of duck sauce/sweet and sour sauce in my orders, if anything it is an abundance. My experience covers TX, SC, IL, MO, CO, CA, AZ and KS.

What I have noticed since moving to the Kansas City area…Chinese take out seems to come with way too much sweet and sour sauce. The places I order from provide packets of soy sauce (around 10 per order) but the sweet and sour sauce is in Styrofoam bowls with lids. It is usually the same size bowl as the soup, so possibly a cup or so, and it is filled to the brim with sweet and sour sauce even if the order contains nothing that such sauce would typically be used with. The last time I had Chinese delivered, the order was moo goo gai pan, beef with broccoli, shrimp fried rice, and egg drop soup, yet it arrived with the obligatory cup of sweet and sour sauce. We always move it to the fridge thinking we might use it on something in the next few days, but then it always gets thrown out…very wasteful.

Never noticed this. However, some Chinese places (take out) give you this really horrible duck sauce (neon pink in color).
I usually throw it out.

I have this issue too (in PA) and it got worse when our local Chinese place (which is otherwise awesome and does a whole line of dedicated vegetarian dishes in separate woks) put the boxes with the mustard, duck and soy sauce packets behind the counter rather than on top. But I agree that this is about cost. 500 duck sauce packets are $7.99 while soy is half the price. And mustard is costliest of all.

I never have the heart to throw the packets out, so I save them in a bowl in the refrigerator. My collection goes back several years! I’ve read the “soy sauce” in the little packets is not, in fact, actual soy sauce, but some brown colored liquid. (I once squirted the contents of a zillion packets into an empty soy sauce bottle, and it was just bitter and yucky tasting.)

I think we need to focus on this part. Duck sauce is nothing like Sweet’n’Sour sauce, at least where I have gotten delivery.

I’m so glad you said this. I grew up calling it “sweet and sour sauce” and I can’t get anyone to believe that this term is actually used for duck sauce.