Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hoisin Sauce

In my twenties, after about three years being an ovo-lacto-vegetarian (no meat but I ate dairy and eggs), I started craving chicken. After some soul searching, I decided to heed the cravings. I told a good friend who was also a sensational cook about my dilemma and my decision. She understood the gravity of the situation and wanted to help me rejoin the ranks of omnivores with ceremony. She offered hoisin chicken as the solution.

I bought the chicken and she made the dinner. I ate one small succulent leg. The outer bite was crispy, slightly sticky, the juices savory and sweet. That chicken was mouthwatering and every bite was gratifying. Almost thirty years have passed since that dinner and my memory of it is palpable.

Wondering what hoisin is? It's a thick brown sweet pungent sauce also called Chinese barbecue.

Recently, after rejecting almost every bottle of marinade in my local grocery store because most of them contained high fructose corn syrup, I started to wonder about the bottle of organic hoisin sauce in my refrigerator. It's definitely sweet. What were the ingredients? Organic everything...including cane sugar which was listed fourth on the label.

I make other marinades so I decided to check online for hoisin sauce recipes. The range was interesting. some were made with peanut butter, others black bean paste, still others with fermented soy bean paste. Recently I found a hoisin sauce recipe in a beautiful new cookbook, Food to Live By, by Myra Goodman. I used her recipe as a spring-board for my own.

Her main ingredient is azuki beans, beautiful tiny terra cotta colored beans. I was excited. I had never prepared azuki beans before. I found them at Whole Foods. I adjusted the ingredients and changed the cooking techniques to suit my kitchen. The results are sensational, better tasting than any store bought version.

I have a large jar in my refrigerator and two small containers in my freezer. I use generous amounts as marinade for skinless chicken. The recipe makes about 2 cups but I go through it fast.

Home-made Hoisin Sauce

1 cup dried azuki beans
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
3/4 c light brown sugar (add more if you like a sweeter sauce)
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 c unseasoned rice vinegar
2/3 c tamari sauce (premium soy sauce)
1/4 tsp Asian chili sauce

  1. Soak azuki beans overnight in water. Drain soaking water and place beans in a pot and submerge in fresh water. Simmer until very soft for about 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. Drain cooking liquid in a colander and allow the beans to cool.
  3. Rinse out the pot and place sesame oil in it. Lightly cook minced garlic and set aside.
  4. Place beans, brown sugar, vinegars, and tamari in a blender. Blend at slow speed until everything is smooth.
  5. Pour blender ingredients into the pot with the cooked garlic and warm to a simmer. Stir frequently. Allow sauce to cook down to a nice thick consistency. Add chili sauce to taste and allow sauce to cool before refrigerating or freezing.

Use refrigerated sauce in a week. Frozen sauce is good for a few months.

To make hoisen chicken, arrange skinless washed chicken pieces in a pan. Pour generous amounts of hoisen sauce until chicken is coated on all sides. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn chicken over in the sauce halfway through the cooking cycle.

Chicken can also be grilled after marinading in sauce. Watch carefully for burning and brush frequently with sauce to keep moist.

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