Hoisin sauce is a thick, dark Chinese sauce that is used as a dipping sauce or for glazing or marinating food. It is made with soybean paste, chilies and salt, and it might contain a combination of other ingredients, such as sugar, vinegar and garlic. This pungent sauce is sometimes referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce. Although it is not similar in flavor to common barbecue sauce, it can be used in much the same way.
The ingredients in hoisin sauce can vary, but its basic ingredients are always soybean paste, salt, a starch and various spices and sweeteners. Garlic, vinegar, sugar and chilies are common ingredients. A starch derived from wheat, rice or sweet potatoes helps thicken the sauce. Food coloring and other ingredients also might be included.
The taste of hoisin sauce is often described as sweet, salty, spicy and tangy. It is has a strong flavor, and some people might find the taste unpleasant. If the taste is too strong, it can be diluted with oil or water. People who are trying this sauce for the first time are advised to use a very small amount of it at first. Some people consider it to be an acquired taste.
Consistency and Appearance
Hoisin sauce usually is thick or somewhat creamy. The consistency often depends on the particular brand or recipe used. Some versions are more liquid, especially when the sauce has been watered down. This sauce is dark brown, sometimes with a reddish tint.
One of the most common uses of this sauce is as a condiment with the popular Chinese dish Peking duck, and it is sometimes referred to as Peking sauce. This sauce can be used as a glaze or marinade for meat, poultry, seafood or tofu. It also can be used as a dipping sauce for Asian foods such as spring rolls or egg rolls. This sauce can even be used in stir-fry recipes, mixed into soups or added to noodle dishes.
Buying or Making It
Hoisin sauce can be purchased from most grocery stores, but where traditional grocery stores do not carry it, Asian food markets usually will. It typically comes in jars, bottles or cans. Some people consider the best sauce to be imported directly from China or Hong Kong.
It also is possible to make hoisin sauce from scratch. Many recipes can be found online. The flavor can vary slightly depending on the recipe, so trying several recipes might be necessary to find one that is preferred. Someone who is familiar with the taste of this sauce also might be able to modify a recipe to his or her liking.
An unopened container of hoisin sauce can be kept on a shelf for quite a while. Every container, however, should indicate the date by which the sauce should be used. An opened container can be stored for an extended period of time if it is re-sealed and stored in a properly cooled refrigerator. The sauce also can be stored in a freezer if it is in an appropriate container.