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What's the Hoopla over Hoisin?

Hoisin sauce is a hands-down favorite for Asian cooking

If you've shopped Asian markets, you probably know there are as many different sauces and oils as there are noodles and "unidentifiable" objects. Hoisin is one sauce every cook should have. The problem is, if you've take the sniff test for the first time, it could really be different, if not downright stinky. Some of that aroma will depend on the ingredients and the manufacturer. If you're one who finds the smell disturbing, ignore it - go ahead and buy it.

The secret to hoisin is when it's tasted as a dipping sauce or blended with other sauces. It suddenly becomes this wonderful flavor that no longer makes you wrinkle your nose. Suddenly, you'll become addicted and want even more. In fact, don't even think about having Peking duck with crepes without it.

Fermented soybeans make up the base for this sauce, which leads to what some say is a "skanky" odor. Also known as Chinese barbecue sauce, Peking sauce, and plum sauce (erroneously), it's the condiment of choice for many. Indeed, if you want the best, make sure the bottle you purchase is imported from China (including Hong Kong).

Finally, there will be some who love the aroma and can't wait to pour it up into a bowl for dipping. As a host, always provide optional sauces if you're serving hoisin in this manner. Otherwise, don't miss out on hoisin's wonderful properties in a stir-fry or tossed into hot rice.

Try this hoisin-ginger hot sauce. It will make a wonderful cooking sauce and - for some - can be served as is over pork tenderloin or a juicy steak.

Hoisin-Ginger Sauce

4-5 green onions, finely chopped (white bulb and greens)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock (can use water)
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (optional for thickening, but recommended if stir-frying)
1 teaspoon grated gingerroot

Add chopped green onions to hot oil and stir until greens are tender. Add remaining ingredients and stir over low-medium heat. Serve hot.

Note: if stir-frying, do not pre-cook sauce. Sauté onions, blend the rest of the ingredients and add in the last few minutes of the stir-fry.

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