Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hoisin Sauce: What Is It and How Do I Cook with It?

Thai Pasta Salad
Hoisin sauce is an Asian condiment, in some ways similar to ketchup.  I first came across it when I ordered Peking Duck at a restaurant.  This sauce, which is a deep, rich brown, appeared in a bowl when the duck was served.  The waiter advised spreading some on the accompanying pancakes and then adding slices of duck .  I was enchanted with the flavor of the sauce and assumed it was part of the Peking Duck recipe.

Years went by before I tasted hoisin sauce again.  Then I discovered it’s a key ingredient in Thai Chicken Pizza, one of the offerings at the California Pizza Kitchen chain.  In that instance hoisin sauce is mixed with peanut butter to make the ‘pizza’ sauce.

That’s when I learned that hoisin sauce is readily available in jars and bottles in Asian markets and, sometimes, my local grocery store.  I keep a bottle in my refrigerator and use it frequently when making my version of Thai Chicken Pizza.  It’s also a key ingredient in Thai Pasta Salad, a cold dish popular with my whole family.

For the record, hoisin sauce is made from soybeans.  It’s flavored with garlic, spices and sugar and should be refrigerated once it’s opened.  If you’re making a stir-fry, add a few tablespoons toward the end of the cooking process for extra flavor.
Thai Pasta Salad – serves 2-3 as a main course (adapted from "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"
2 raw boneless chicken breasts 
1 9-ounce package fresh linguine or 8 ounces dried linguine 
1 medium tomato, chopped 
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped 
20 sprigs fresh cilantro, stems discarded and leaves roughly chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 teaspoon chopped garlic 
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
3 tablespoons lemon juice 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
Put the chicken breasts in a small pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat to medium and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.  The chicken should be firm and white, with no signs of pink when you cut into it.  If you see any pink juices, cook for another 5 minutes.  If you cook it too long, however, it will become tough. 
Cut the chicken into bite-size strips, put into a serving bowl and set aside. 
Fill a large pot half full of water, cover and heat over high heat. 
When the water comes to a boil, add the linguine and cook according to the directions.  Fresh linguine will take 2-3 minutes while dried linguine will take 9-10 minutes.  When the noodles are cooked, drain them in a colander and run cold water over them to cool them down.  With a pair of scissors, cut the noodles roughly into 4-inch lengths and add them to the chicken. 
Add the tomato, bell pepper and fresh cilantro (but not the ground coriander) to the chicken mixture. 
To make the dressing, heat the olive oil in a small pot.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and heat until the garlic begins to sizzle.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oregano, black pepper and ground coriander, if using. 
Toss the salad, pour the dressing over it and toss again.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.
           For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"