Note: I've updated the recipe slightly in this more recent post.
I have a theory.
The world divides into three kinds of people: sugar, salt, spicy.
Which are you? Do you crave that last bit of icing in the mixing bowl, or the cream-filled pastry at the bake shop? Or, like me, do you open your mouth and let a bag of potato chips march in? Or — also like me — would you toss everything aside for a nose-dribblingly-hot, spicy bowl of jambalaya?
Whatever your type, hoisin sauce just might tickle your taste buds.
Hoisin (pronounced HOY-SIN), known as Peking Duck Sauce everywhere but in Peking/Beijing, is both a condiment and an ingredient. Made from sweet potato, fermented soybeans, sesame seeds, garlic, chile pepper, wheat flour, salt and sugar, it's a thick, almost gloppy Mandarin-style dipping sauce, reddish-brown in color. (Did I mention that sugar is the first ingredient listed? No wonder it tastes so good!)
Also called Chinese barbecue sauce, hoisin — more sweet than spicy — is most often used on its own, with Asian dishes from dumplings to mu shu pancakes, but it combines well with other ingredients (like peanut butter, honey, and soy sauce) to form more complex grilling and dipping sauces. It's fantastic on stir-fried greens.
Look for hoisin in the Asian foods section of your supermarket. In my Asian grocery, I can buy hoisin in squeeze bottles — convenient, and it lasts forever in the fridge.
Asparagus wonton wraps
These appetizers are fast and easy, unusual, and strangely addictive. Instead of hoisin, use any mustard, wasabi, oyster sauce or condiment of your choice. Makes 24.
Cut each asparagus spear in half crosswise. Place 2 wonton skins on a work surface, keeping remaining skins covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying out. Lightly spread 1 skin with a tiny bit of hoisin. Place second skin on top. Place 1 piece of asparagus diagonally across one corner of stacked skins. Brush edges of skin with water. Roll asparagus, allowing one end to protrude. Repeat with remaining wonton skins, hoisin and asparagus.
In a large wok, heat oil to 375°F or until a small bread cube dropped in oil sizzles and turns golden. Add wraps in batches and fry until golden, about 2 minutes. Using a wire mesh skimmer, remove to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.
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