From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hoisin Sauce Lessons


I was frustrated.  Hungry, and frustrated.  Not a good combination, by any means.  I could not, for the life of me, find any shiitake mushrooms for the lettuce wraps that I was going to do for dinner last night.  I sure as heck did not  want to drive across town in rush hour traffic to go to Tim’s Oriental Market, which I consider to be the best in town. 

As luck would have it, I was on my way back to my property after having to help a sister property out, and lo and behold, there on the corner, across from the sister property’s office, was a Korean Market.  Turns out that market had always been there, and I for some reason, never ventured in. 

Upon entering the store, I saw rows and rows of familiar products, from dried noodles, to Asian candies of all sorts, to dried seaweed, and even coolers full of fish, squid, and meats of all sorts.  I was back in Heaven, almost.  I called Kim to tell her of my find, and she said that I sounded like a kid in a candy store.  Really?

Unfortunately, given that it was a Korean market, and not an Asian, or Chinese market, they did not have Lop Cheong, that wonderful sausage I keep bringing up, but I knew that I was taking a stab in the dark hoping to find it.

Shiitake mushrooms? Piece of cake.  Awesome.  Lettuce wrap recipe, complete.

When I got home, I started assembling the ingredients, and holy cow, it turned into a family event, given the mass of preparation that needed to be done.  The girls were hungry, and their patience was wearing thin. 
Onions? Check. Scallions? Check. Chicken? Check.  Shiitake Mushrooms? Check.  Soy Sauce? Check. 

Hoisin Sauce? Check.

Taste test: “Holy cow, this hoisin sauce is terrible!! What kind did you get?”

“Umm…the only kind on the shelf.”

Note to self: Only get the Koon Chun brand of Hoisin sauce.  It’s not all the same.  As a classic Chinese dipping sauce, its recipe incorporates fermented soy beans, sugar, garlic, chiles and vinegar.  The kind we had? No sugar, no garlic, and waaaaaayyyy too much vinegar.  I had to sweeten it on the fly.  It is a good thing that I made a point of tasting the sauce before just tossing it into the mix.

If the hoisin sauce comes out of the jar and looks like a lighter orange paste, don’t use it.  It needs to taste flavorful and have a dark, thick, almost chocolate type color.


Luckily, I was able to salvage the recipe, and away we went.  The coolest element for the girls was when I fried the rice noodles into a light, fluffy and crispy noodle. (Best practice:  Make sure to only heat the oil to 350 degrees, and if it happens to pass that temperature and start smoking, pull it off the fire and let it cool, or add more cold oil.)  The mai fun noodles went from thin, hard strings to crispy chips almost instantly.  Cool. Very Cool.

Overall, the dinner was a success, although, in hindsight, I realized that I had omitted the sesame oil and white pepper.  Oh well, maybe next time.

When I know I have lots of time to  prep a meal, I am going to have to make my Baked Hoisin Honey Chicken for the family.  Unfortunately, this particular meal takes about 6 hours to make, start to finish.

Until then, Good Eating, Friends…

Hoisin Honey Chicken

In this recipe, roast chicken is given a beautifully mahogany color by basting it with a dark and delicious mix of hoisin and honey.
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus marinating time
Cooking time: About 90-100 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (3 lb.) chicken

Place the hoisin sauce, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, sherry or rice wine, ginger and garlic in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Set in the chicken and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate and marinate the chicken for 4 hours, or overnight, turning the chicken occasionally and brushing it with marinade.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a shallow-sided roasting pan with parchment paper. Set in the chicken, breast side up. Tuck the wings of the chicken under its body; tie the legs together. Brush the chicken with the marinade in the bowl.

Roast the chicken for 90-100 minutes, or until the chicken's temperature in the center of a thigh registers 170 F on an instant read meat thermometer. During cooking, baste the chicken occasionally with the marinade that drips down into the pan.

When cooked, transfer the chicken to a plate, tent with foil and rest 10 minutes before carving.

Serve with rice and vegetables of your choice.

Note: If desired, once the chicken has been removed, pour any juices left in the pan into gravy separator or small, tall vessel. Let it sit for a minute or two to allow the fat to rise to the surface. Remove the fat and drizzle the juices over the carved chicken.

The left over chicken will be perfect for a Chicken Fried Rice or a Sticky Rice…
(This recipe can also be cooked in a slow cooker on high for 4-5 hours after marinating or on low for 7-8 hours.)

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