My first introduction to hoisin sauce was in 1978 at an “upmarket” Chinese restaurant where they served the pungent sauce with their spring rolls. The rolls were fat and long and filled with pork & vegetables that you could discern from and the hoisin was an extravagant step up from the usual sweet & sour sauce that typically accompanies them.
From then on, hoisin was a favourite addition to whatever we were eating with rice, or even just with rice on its own!
Hoisin sauce is also known as Chinese barbecue sauce and is often confused with plum sauce as both are thick, dark and sweet. It’s commonly used as an ingredient in Chinese cooking and is traditionally based on fermented soy beans.
But on label watch recently, I found very few commercial varieties that had any soy beans in them at all! Most named sugar as the main ingredient with wheat starch coming in second. Hoisin should typically include soy, chillies and garlic. Vinegar, salt and sugar are also commonly added.
It dawned on me that the reason why I have gone “off” dining in Chinese restaurants is that the majority of the dishes are based on commercial bottled sauces. Because we have been eating cleanly for some time now, anything that has preservatives, additives or flavouring, leaves a residue on my tongue, not to mention a “blech” feeling in my gut!
As you know, I make just about everything in my pantry but was yet to attempt hoisin – until now!
There are so many dishes that feature hoisin as the focus. Barbeque roast pork, shanghai noodles and Mongolian beef all use hoisin as an integral ingredient. As a dipping sauce, you couldn’t have Peking duck or popiah rolls without it. A favourite dish that I used to make was a simple eggplant stir-fry with hoisin sauce and I have included the recipe below.
The sauce itself is very easy. The secret to getting the texture right is adding some starch so that it should be quite thick and pasty. I achieved this by using some roasted sweet potato. White potato & pumpkin would work too as a thickening agent – if it’s roasted it will have a more intense flavour. This recipe makes 1 medium jar. If hoisin is popular in your household, double the recipe.
Hoisin Sauce Make Your Own1 clove garlic 1 purple shallot, peeled 1 teas oil 1/4 teas dried chilli flakes 1/4 teas ground black pepper 1/2 teas Chinese five-spice 50g nut butter (I used almond butter) 50g dark mushroom soy 20g dark molasses (1 tab) 20g rapadura sugar – or more to taste 1 tab apple cider vinegar 60g roasted sweet potato 50g water 1 teas cornflour (or potato starch or tapioca) 1 teas toasted sesame oil Chop the garlic & shallot for 10 seconds, SP 8. Scrape down the bowl and add the oil. Saute for 3 minutes at 100°C on SP 2. Add the remaining ingredients, except the sesame oil and cook for 7 minutes on SP 4 at 100°C. It will be quite thick. Add the sesame oil* and mix in before storing in a clean jar. Simple Eggplant Stir-Fry with Hoisin 500g eggplant, cut into large cubes 50g light olive oil or coconut oil, divided 2 teas fresh ginger, julienned 2 cloves garlic, sliced 1 small onion, sliced 1 teas toasted sesame oil 100g homemade hoisin sauce 50g milk (I used almond) Sliced spring onions or coriander to garnish. In a wok or frying pan, heat half of the oil until hot and saute the eggplant until brown on all sides, adding more oil when required. Pour in 40g of water and cover with a lid to steam the eggplant until it is quite soft and the water has evaporated. Set aside in a serving dish and keep warm. Whilst this is cooking, add the hoisin and milk to the TM and cook for 2 minutes at 100°C SP 3. Back to your wok or frying pan, saute the garlic, onion & ginger for 5 minutes until soft, adding a little more oil if required. Stir in the sesame oil at the end. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and top with the fried onions & ginger. Top with spring onions to garnish. Serve with rice. *Sesame oil has a very low smoke point and its best not to “cook” it but add it last as a flavouring. Some variations:
- Try sautéing some minced pork and mixing it in with the eggplant.
- Use green beans or broccolini instead of eggplant.
- Use tofu instead of eggplant.