Hoisin, a globally popular Chinese sauce, translates literally in Cantonese to “seafood,” though there is in fact no seafood products that go into its production. Traditionally made from sweet potato, soybeans, sugar, salt, garlic, red chili peppers, vinegar, water and certain types of preservatives or coloring agents depending on the production company, Hoisin has long been popular in many types of Asian cuisine.
Its most typical use has been as a dipping sauce in dishes such as spring rolls, Peking Duck, Mushu and barbecue. It is also widely used as a condiment in Vietnamese cuisine, particularly for Pho soups. Hoisin is always a rich, dark brown hue with a slightly thick consistency and smooth texture. Its sweet and savory flavors have a distinguishable characteristic depth due to the soybeans.
Hoisin has become so popular in recent years that it is not only available in Asian grocery stores but now, it’s widely available in most western markets as well. Typical brands include Lee Kum Kee (pictured above) and Koon Chun, the differences between brands being varying gradations of saltiness, sweetness and thickness of consistency.