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What Is Hoisin Sauce?

Hoisin sauce is a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes. It is sometimes called “Asia’s barbecue sauce” and is often used in basting grilled meats, or as a dipping sauce. It is a key element in the much-loved “Peking Duck” though it is also used in stir-fries, saute’s and even Asian salads.

Hoisin sauce is made of soybean paste, garlic, vinegar, and a combination of spices like chili. Some varieties also include peanut sauce, or include sweeteners like honey or molasses. Others use sesame oil. This leads to variations in consistency (some are creamy, others are quite thick) and color (which ranges from a deep brown to a red-brown). All hoisin sauce, however, will have a distinct interplay of sweetness, spiciness and saltiness. It has a very strong flavor and should be used with discretion—some people love it, some people hate it. It is possible to dilute hoisin sauce with a little water for a milder flavor.

Some people who are very passionate about hoisin sauce will insist on making their own. They can find numerous recipes in Chinese cookbooks or the internet. However, those who would simply like to try it can buy a small jar, or even a sachet, at Asian supermarkets or even some Chinese restaurants (who will sell their own unique mix). Not all hoisin sauce are created equal, though. There are premium varieties, usually made in China and Hong Kong, that boast of quality ingredients and traditional recipes.

Hoisin sauce keeps well, and does not have to be refrigerated until after the bottle is opened.

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