As oils and sauces go from luxuries to household staples, they are often reinvented as cheaper, more shelf stable products. While making things cheap and shelf stable are worthwhile goals, they typically do not lead to the most delicious cooking possible.
Look for short ingredient lists with basic ingredients like water, rice, barley, wheat, koji, salt, sugar and alcohol. If you see high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list, keep searching!
Soy Sauce: Check out Momfuku Soy Sauce. Avoid any soy sauces with anything other than water, soybeans, wheat, salt, alcohol or kombu in the ingredient list.
Mirin: Check out Eden Organics Mirin. It is the only real mirin that we have found. Avoid any mirin with anything other than water, rice, koji or salt in the ingredient list.
Black Vinegar: Check out Gold Plum Chinkiang Vinegar at HMart or most other Asian grocers. Avoid any black vinegar with ingredients other than water, glutinous rice, wheat, barley, sugar, salt.
Sesame Oil: Check out Eden Organics Toasted Sesame Oil. In broad strokes there are two qualities of sesame oil. The kind that is cloying on its own (though still good as an ingredient) and the kind that is delicious and nutty even on its own. We prefer the second type. Especially with a left over scallion pancake.
Recipe: Dumpling Sauce
Black Vinegar 2 tablespoons
Garlic 2 cloves, pealed
Sesame Oil 1 teaspoon
Chili Crunch any kind, totally optional
Add the garlic cloves to a mortar and pestle. Mash for 30 seconds or so until the garlic is kind of shredded. Add black vinegar, sesame oil and chili crunch if you want it to be spicy.