Experience the Flavors of Dragonfly BBQ Sauce: A Unique Cambodian Yahon Broth Recipe

Experience the Flavors of Dragonfly BBQ Sauce: A Unique Cambodian Yahon Broth Recipe
Table Of Content

What is Dragonfly BBQ Sauce?

Dragonfly BBQ sauce originated in Cambodia, where it is known as "yahon." It has a savory, lightly sweet and salty flavor profile. The sauce is an integral component of Cambodian barbecue or grilling, known as "sach ko." The name "dragonfly" comes from the use of shrimp paste as a key ingredient, which references the water bugs that dragonflies feed on.

Dragonfly BBQ sauce highlights flavors from Southeast Asian cuisine, like fish sauce, palm sugar, chiles and garlic. It strikes a perfect balance between salty, sweet, spicy and umami. The result is a sauce that will add a touch of the exotic to your typical barbecue fare. This Cambodian-style BBQ sauce truly takes grilled meats, seafood and veggies to the next level.

Traditional Ingredients in Dragonfly BBQ Sauce

While recipes can vary, traditional dragonfly BBQ sauce contains these core ingredients:

  • Fish sauce: This adds an intense umami punch of savoriness. Fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies, salt and water.
  • Palm sugar: Derived from the sap of palm trees, this adds sweet caramel notes.
  • Garlic: This pungent aromatic amplifies the savory flavors.
  • Chiles: Thai bird's eye chiles provide spicy heat.
  • Shrimp paste: This funky fermented shrimp lends an almost cheesy flavor reminiscent of Parmesan.
  • Lime juice: A squirt of lime brightens up the rich, savory flavors.

In addition to these core ingredients, dragonfly sauce recipes can include extras like lemongrass, ginger, shallots, cilantro and kaffir lime leaves. The sauce has a thin consistency almost like a vinaigrette, allowing it to coat foods nicely.

Tips for Making Your Own Dragonfly BBQ Sauce

Looking to recreate the flavors of dragonfly BBQ sauce at home this summer? Here are some tips:

  • Use an high-quality fish sauce like Red Boat or Squid for the best flavor. Avoid fish sauces with added sugar or MSG.
  • Look for shrimp paste in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery stores. A little goes a long way due to its pungent, funky flavor.
  • Palm sugar provides tasty caramel notes, but you can substitute brown sugar, maple syrup or honey.
  • Go easy on the chiles at first, then adjust the heat level to your personal tolerance.
  • Don't skip the lime juice - it balances out the other strong flavors.
  • Play around with aromatics like ginger, lemongrass, shallots and garlic.
  • Make a large batch and keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Traditional Cambodian Yahon Broth Recipe

This flavor-packed Cambodian yahon broth recipe from Jenny Dorsey adds dragonfly BBQ sauce to a hot pot-style broth for dipping meats and veggies. It showcases the sauce's complex savory flavors beautifully.


  • 7.7 oz dragonfly BBQ sauce
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 cubes palm sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1⁄4 cup lime juice
  • Thai bird's eye chiles, to taste
  • Lemongrass
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Fish sauce
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp paste and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add palm sugar cubes and cook, stirring constantly, until melted and caramelized.
  3. Pour in coconut milk and dragonfly BBQ sauce. Stir to combine.
  4. Add chicken broth, lime juice, chiles, lemongrass, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Season broth with fish sauce and salt to taste.
  6. Transfer hot broth to a fondue pot or hot pot to keep warm for dipping.
  7. Serve with thinly sliced beef, shrimp, chicken, fish balls, tofu, noodles, veggies and fresh herbs.

Tantalizing Recipe Ideas with Dragonfly BBQ Sauce

Dragonfly BBQ sauce brings its signature sweet, salty, spicy and umami flavors to all kinds of savory recipes beyond traditional grilling. Here are some delicious ideas to inspire you:

Main Dishes

  • Brush on salmon, shrimp or chicken before grilling or roasting
  • Toss with fried tofu, eggplant or cauliflower
  • Stir into ground meat for burgers or meatballs
  • Marinate steak, chicken wings or pork ribs
  • Use as a dip for grilled skewers of meat and veggies
  • Coat wings or drumsticks before baking or air frying

Side Dishes

  • Dressings and dips for fresh summer rolls
  • Flavor boiled, steamed or roasted veggies
  • Dip for sweet potato fries or tater tots
  • Drizzle over a grain bowl
  • Toss with roasted potatoes or Brussels sprouts

Sauces and Condiments

  • Stir into mayo for sandwich spread or dip
  • Mix with peanut butter for a spicy nutty sauce
  • Blend into hummus or bean dip
  • Whisk with oil and vinegar for salad dressing
  • Drizzle on pizza, flatbreads or bruschetta

With its addictive savory-sweet flavor, a little dragonfly BBQ sauce goes a long way. Keep a jar handy this summer for instant flavor enhancement on everything you cook on the grill or stove.

Where to Buy Dragonfly BBQ Sauce

Thanks to its growing popularity, dragonfly BBQ sauce is becoming easier to find at grocery stores. Look for it in the international aisle alongside other Southeast Asian ingredients like fish sauce and curry pastes. Here are some top brands to try:

  • Tiparos - Made in Thailand, their dragonfly sauce has a balanced sweet-salty flavor.
  • A-Roy Thai - This sauce adds garlic and vinegar for extra tanginess.
  • Mae Ploy - One of the more widely available Thai brands of dragonfly sauce.
  • Thai Kitchen - Look for their vegetarian dragonfly sauce made without shrimp paste.
  • Healthy Boy - This brand uses palm sugar and has a sweet profile.

You may also be able to find dragonfly BBQ sauce at Asian supermarkets or specialty spice shops. Once you get your hands on a bottle of this tropical tasting sauce, get ready to take your homemade BBQ recipes up a notch!


What does dragonfly BBQ sauce taste like?

Dragonfly BBQ sauce has a complex flavor profile that is savory, lightly sweet, salty, and a little spicy. It features notes of fermented fish, garlic, palm sugar, chiles and lime. The sauce is thin and coats foods nicely.

What is dragonfly sauce made of?

Traditional dragonfly sauce contains fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, chiles, shrimp paste, and lime juice. Some recipes may also include lemongrass, ginger, shallots, and kaffir lime leaves.

Is dragonfly sauce spicy?

Dragonfly BBQ sauce typically contains small Thai chiles, which lend mild to moderate spicy heat. The level of spice can vary between brands or recipes. Go easy with the chiles at first until you know your tolerance.

How do you use dragonfly barbecue sauce?

Dragonfly sauce can be used as a marinade, glaze, dip, dressing or stir-in ingredient. It's great brushed on proteins before grilling, tossed with veggies, or stirred into condiments like mayo. Add it anytime you want a flavor boost.

Where can I buy dragonfly BBQ sauce?

Look for dragonfly sauce in the international aisle at grocery stores or at Asian supermarkets. Popular brands include Tiparos, Mae Ploy, A-Roy Thai and Thai Kitchen. It is becoming more widely available.

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