Q. I've heard hoisin sauce is like a Chinese barbecue sauce, but I'm not sure if that's true. What exactly is hoisin sauce?
A. In some ways, hoisin sauce is like a Chinese barbecue sauce: it's used in Chinese cooking much like barbecue sauce is used in American cooking.
The Chinese use hoisin sauce as a glaze for meats and as a condiment. Hoisin is a reddish-brown sauce that's salty, sweet, and spicy.
Hoisin sauce is made from soybean paste, garlic, chilies, and various spices, and can contain sugar and vinegar.
Hoisin sauce is also sometimes called Peking sauce, because it's used in making Peking duck.
Hoisin is a great glaze for meat and fish. A little dab of hoisin sauce also gives extra flavor to stir-fry and noodle dishes.
It used to be that hoisin sauce could only be found in specialty markets or in a Chinese market. However with the expansion of Asian foods and other international cuisines, hoisin sauce is now readily available in most major grocery stores. Look for it it in the international foods section.