Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chinese BBQ Sauce? Hoisin Sauce.

The first time I'd had Hoisin sauce, or should I say knowingly had it, was at a Chinese restaurant in New York City's Chinatown.  I had been asked to a celebration dinner which consisted of many delicacies, one being Peking Duck.  There was a thick, dark sauce served with the duck; smearing just a small amount onto a Chinese pancake, a few slivers of duck and scallion were then wrapped within the pancake.  The first bite was a surprise, but the continuing bites lead to ecstasy; such a rich, heady flavor came from the sauce.

My next conscious experience with Hoisin was having Mhu Shu (also written as Moo Shu or Mu Shu) Pork; a pork and vegetable mixture which is eaten inside a pancake smeared with Hoisin. A most excellent dish and if pork is not to your liking, it can be prepared with shrimp, chicken, beef or a combination.

Hoisin sauce is the Chinese version of barbecue sauce which, besides grilling, can be used in stir fries, marinades, as a condiment or a thickener. It is a soy based sauce having the components of salty, sweet and spicy due to the additional ingredients of garlic, vinegar, sweeteners and chilies. The texture of the sauce is usually thick, but can be thinned with the addition of sesame oil or water until the desired consistency is achieved.

While Hoisin can be purchased in a store, it can just as easily be made at home. Having a mortar and pestle handy in the kitchen is an asset for creating the paste quality of some of the ingredients. Patience is also necessary as it needs a good amount of mixing to help the ingredients meet and marry together; using a blender is quite useful for this and easier on the wrist.

Hoisin Sauce

6 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp each creamy peanut butter and black bean paste
1 Tbsp each honey and dark molasses
2 tsp white vinegar
¼ tsp each garlic and onion paste
2 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Hot sauce – dependent upon how mild, medium or hot is desired, or add pieces of chopped chilies to the garlic and onion when creating the paste.


Add all ingredients into a medium bowl, or into a blender, and mix until smooth. The texture will be thick; if a thinner consistency is desired, add a teaspoon of sesame oil or water until achieved.

Makes ½ cup.

One item I like to use Hoisin on is salmon; giving the fish a rich, smoky flavor from the sauce and a mild sweetness and spice from the glaze it creates. As a side dish, I make up my Oriental Chicken, Vegetables and Noodle recipe, but leave out the chicken of course.

The salmon has the skin and bones removed and cut into 4 to 6 ounce portions; depending on how large the side of salmon is. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Use a pastry brush to spread a half cup of Hoisin sauce over the foil, wherever the salmon will be lying. Place the salmon on the foil and brush it liberally with sauce; sprinkle a little ground ginger over all. Bake the salmon for 20 minutes; test for doneness in the thickest part of the filets. While the salmon is baking, the side dish can be made.

Simple and quite delicious!

Mary Cokenour

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