Hoisin sauce (Recipe: steamed baby bok choy with spicy hoisin glaze)
- Pronounce it HOY-sin.
- The name means "seafood", though there's no seafood in it.
- A thick, brownish-red, salty-sweet garlicky sauce, hoisin sauce is used straight from the bottle as a dipping sauce for potstickers, dumplings, or moo shu dishes.
- Though Peking Duck was invented at the imperial court during the Ming Dynasty, while hoisin sauce came to the market in the 1960s, they are now inseparable. Sweet bean paste, sometimes confused with hoisin, was the condiment originally used for Peking Duck, but hoisin has upstaged it in most American Chinese restaurants. To serve the duck, place a steamed Chinese crepe-like pancake on the plate. Top it with a scallion and a drizzle of hoisin, followed by slices of the duck breast meat with its crispy skin.
- Commercial hoisin sauce contains soybeans and sweet potato, and wheat flour. If you want to make your own gluten-free hoisin, try mixing together: 4 Tbsp gluten-free soy sauce, 2 Tbsp black bean paste or peanut butter, 1 Tbsp honey or molasses, 2 tsp white wine vinegar, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp sesame oil, 20 drops hot sauce and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Some recipes use pulverized prunes instead of the peanut butter.
- Unopened, hoisin will keep in the pantry cupboard for 2 years or more. Once opened, it must be stored in the refrigerator, where it will last for many months.
- My favorite Lee Kum Kee brand comes in a squeeze bottle, which is so convenient, or a jar. It also comes in a vegetarian version. Another good brand is Pearl River Bridge, though it's a bit harder to find. At Asian grocery stores, a 20-ounce bottle of Lee Kum Kee costs less than $2. If you need to buy online, order a case and split the cost with several friends.
- Then, you and your friends can share these recipes for crockpot hoisin chicken wings, hoisin-honey pork riblets, pork and broccoli stir fry, broccoli, red pepper and asparagus with hoisin sauce and couscous, lime chicken skewers, and coriander crusted lamb with spiced orange-hoisin sauce.
- Add a squirt of hoisin sauce to set your homemade barbecue sauce apart. Nobody will guess the secret ingredient. Unless they're readers of The Perfect Pantry, of course.
Steamed baby bok choy with spicy hoisin glaze
If you're lucky enough to live near an Asian market or good farmers market, you can find baby bok choy (white bulbs) or baby Shanghai bok choy (light green bulbs). Strip the outermost leaves, and rinse the rest of the head under cool water to loosen any grit that's trapped between the leaves. Figure on one or two heads per person, depending on what else is being served. (My Asian supermarket sells bags of 8 heads of baby bok choy for less than a dollar.) Proportions aren't terribly important in this dish, which makes a great accompaniment for steamed or grilled salmon.
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1-2 tsp Sriracha, to taste
1-2 tsp agave nectar or honey, to taste
Juice of half an orange or half a Meyer lemon
1-2 heads of baby bok choy per person
In a small glass measuring cup, whisk together the first five ingredients. The sauce should be viscous, like a glaze.
Prepare a steamer (bamboo, metal, whatever you have). Wash and rinse the bok choy and place it in the steam. Drizzle with a bit of the sauce. Cover the steamer, place over a pot filled with an inch of boiling water, and steam for 3-4 minutes, until the bok choy is just tender when pierced through the bulb with a sharp knife.
Remove bok choy from the steamer to a serving plate, and drizzle with a bit more of the sauce. You can save leftover sauce in a tightly-capped jar in the refrigerator. Serve hot.