You might recognize hoisin sauce as the reddish-brown condiment that adds a sweet and spicy finishing touch to Chinese dishes like Peking Duck and Mu-Shu Pork. Made of soybeans, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and spices, hoisin sauce is sometimes called Chinese barbecue sauce because its thick texture and concentrated tangy-sweet flavor are a bit like an American barbecue sauce.
How to use it:
Versatile hoisin sauce is great for quick, casual cooking. Try adding it to a stir-fry or brushing it onto meats before broiling, as in my recipe for Hoisin-Glazed Flank Steak Spirals. For a light dinner, chop up leftover chicken or pork and wrap it in Boston lettuce leaves with shredded carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers, and a spoonful of hoisin. Or try mixing hoisin sauce with a splash of sesame oil and brushing it on chicken breasts or steaks as they grill. Just be careful when cooking with hoisin over high heat: Its high sugar content means it can burn easily.
How to buy and store it:
Hoisin sauce is sold in the Chinese section of most supermarkets, though there’s a noticeable difference in quality and texture between brands. It’s worth a visit to an Asian grocer to find some of the better ones, which tend to be thicker and have a concentrated, less sweet flavor or to purchase it online. Lee Kum Kee brand has a smooth, silky texture, a mellow garlic flavor, and a good balance of sweetness and piquancy. Koon Chun brand has a thicker, paste-like texture and a wonderful spiced flavor. After opening, store hoisin sauce in the refrigerator; it keeps almost indefinitely.