Chinese hot mustard is a popular condiment served with Chinese appetizers. It is made by mixing a dry mustard powder with water, causing a chemical reaction that produces a sharp, spicy taste. Some recipes call for the addition of cooking or vegetable oil, which reduces the effect somewhat; sesame oil and rice vinegar may also be added.
How Chinese Mustard Is Made
You may be surprised to learn what gives China's most popular table condiment its strong bite, especially considering its seemingly simple preparation. The answer lies in the chemical properties of mustard seeds. Mustard seeds come from the mustard plant, a member of the cabbage family, and contain two sulfur compounds—myrosin, and sinigrin—as well as an enzyme, myrosinase. When the seeds are broken and water is added, the enzyme breaks down the sulfur compounds. The result is the sharp tasting oil that gives mustard its pungency and helps explain why the name mustard comes from the Latin words mustum (must) and ardens (burning).
Chinese Hot Mustard vs. Prepared Mustards
Since Chinese hot mustard does not include any additional spice, you may wonder how regular mustards are not all spicy. In the case of prepared mustards, the enzyme reaction is toned down by using additives such as flour. The actual flavor of prepared mustard will depend on a number of factors, including the type of seeds used, how they are processed, and what spices are added.
For example, France's world-famous Dijon mustard is made with strong brown or black mustard seeds, verjuice (the juice of unripened grapes) and/or white wine or wine vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and other seasonings. This gives it a distinctive taste worlds apart from the plain yellow mustard you pour on your hotdog.
By contrast, Chinese hot mustard is made with dry mustard—mustard that has been dried sufficiently so that when crushed it forms a powder. Asian markets and online stores carry Chinese mustard powder which, like Dijon, is made with the stronger brown mustard seeds, called Brassica juncea.
What Does It Taste Like?
There is really one standout taste when it comes to Chinese hot mustard: heat. If the mustard has been stored properly so the spice level has not diminished, you may only experience the burning sensation of the mustard and not really taste anything else. However, there are elements of tanginess behind the fire, similar to the flavor of regular mustard.
Where to Buy Chinese Hot Mustard
This condiment is sold in cans and jars ranging from about 3 ounces to 9 ounces. You will find it in the Asian section of most grocery stores, as well as Asian markets and online. The labels will range from "Chinese-style hot mustard" to simply "hot mustard" to "Chinese mustard sauce." You can also make your own Chinese hot mustard from scratch.
How to Make Your Own Chinese Hot Mustard
All you need to make your own Chinese hot mustard is dry mustard powder and cold water. Mix the powder and water together, cover, and let sit for about an hour. After about fifteen minutes the reaction will fully develop. Just remember that after the mustard reaches its peak strength at this point, it slowly begins to decline.
If you want hot mustard that's not quite as strong, adding a salad or cooking oil to the mustard powder and water tones down the process somewhat, as does adding boiling water, but it also changes the taste.
If you can't find Chinese mustard powder, you can use English Colman's dry mustard powder as a perfectly acceptable substitute; it is made by blending the flavorful brown seeds with the less pungent white mustard seeds.
- Place 1/4 cup dry mustard powder in a bowl.
- Gradually stir in 1/4 cup of cold water.
- Stir in 1/8 teaspoon of salad oil if you would like the heat toned down a bit.
- Cover the bowl and let it stand for at least 1 hour.
- Use immediately, or transfer the mustard to a small jar, cover, and place in the refrigerator.
Using Chinese Hot Mustard
Hot mustard's raw bite goes well with most Chinese appetizers and is the perfect accompaniment for egg rolls and spring rolls. It is also an ideal condiment for Chinese shrimp balls, Chinese beef hot pot, and baked chicken wontons.
Jars of Chinese hot mustard should be refrigerated after opening where it will last up to 1 year. Unopened jars can be kept in the pantry for 1 to 2 years.
When it comes to homemade Chinese hot mustard, it is ideal to use it right away, but if you're not using it immediately, adding an acid such as vinegar or rice wine will stop the reaction and prevent the mustard from losing its sharp edge. However, some people argue that the acid hides some of the mustard's flavor. While the effect is subtle, it does exist, so as an alternative you may want to store the hot mustard in a sealed container in the refrigerator, as refrigeration also stops the reaction from progressing.
Health Benefits of Chinese Hot Mustard
Hot mustard powder is filled with minerals that boost your health, such as manganese and phosphorous which support bone health and regulate enzyme and hormone activity respectively, maintaining healthy cell membranes. The powder is also high in iron, which assists in red blood cell function. In addition, it increases the selenium content—which helps to regulate your metabolism—in the food you are eating with the mustard. An added plus is that mustard is low in both fat and calories.
- Chinese mustard is stronger than regular mustard. Use in small amounts.
- Covered and stored in the refrigerator, the mustard will last for up to a month.