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Where EAST meets the Northwest

SAVORY SAUCE. Hoisin, a classic ingredient for sauces in China, is a thick, dark red-to-brown sauce that blends sweet-spicy-savory flavors. Pictured are Hoisin Turkey Meatball Grinders with Spicy Tomato Relish. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

From The Asian Reporter, V22, #20 (October 15, 2012), page 15.

Massive flavor in a little bottle: A hoisin primer

By J.M. Hirsch

AP Food Editor

Mmmm. Nothing says good eats like soy residue.

Except that in Chinese cooking, it really can. And you very likely have enjoyed that soy residue, many times and in many ways.

I’m talking about hoisin, a classic ingredient for sauces — both for dipping at the table and basting during cooking — in China. Hoisin is a thick, dark red-to-brown sauce that blends sweet-spicy-savory flavors, a profile not all that different from ketchup.

It is made from the leftover mash of fermented soy beans produced when making traditional soy sauces. That mash is combined with sugar, chilies, garlic, vinegar, salt, sometimes five-spice powder, and either flour or cornstarch (to thicken). Though hoisin is widely used on grilled meats (as a barbecue sauce) and in dipping sauces, it’s best known for a starring role in Peking duck and moo shu pork.

The trick with hoisin is to use it sparingly. Unlike ketchup (which I firmly believe should be served by the gallon), a little hoisin goes a long way.

To make a dipping sauce, thin a teaspoon or so with sesame oil and soy sauce. Uncut, it can be brushed directly onto meats for grilling.

You’ll usually find hoisin in glass jars amongst the grocer’s other Asian ingredients. Refrigerated after opening, it should last months.

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Hoisin Turkey Meatball Grinders with Spicy Tomato Relish

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

1 egg

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 scallions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

Zest of 1 lime

1/4 cup hoisin


1 1/3 pounds ground turkey

3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup crème fraîche

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Four 6-inch sub rolls

* * *

Heat the oven to 425º Fahrenheit. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, cilantro, scallions, garlic, ginger, lime zest, hoisin, and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Mix well. Add the turkey, then knead well with your hands until evenly mixed. Add the breadcrumbs and mix again. Form the mixture into about 20 balls.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt two table- spoons of the butter. Add half of the meatballs and brown on all sides, about five minutes total. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, then repeat with the remaining butter and meatballs.

Bake the meatballs for seven to eight minutes, or until cooked through and a thermometer inserted at the center of a meatball reads 165º F.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the tomatoes, crème fraîche, hot sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread a quarter of the mixture down the center of each sub roll. When the meatballs are done, arrange four to five in each roll. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 560 calories (240 calories from fat, 43 percent of total calories); 27 g fat (12 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 175 mg cholesterol; 44 g carbohydrate; 39 g protein; 3 g fiber; 1,620 mg sodium.

J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press.

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