If you’ve ever eaten Chinese American takeout favorites like crab rangoon, egg rolls, or fried wontons, you’re well-acquainted with the yellow packets of Chinese hot mustard that often accompany them. It’s spicy, vibrant, and distinctly different from American yellow mustard, but what sets it apart? Here’s how to make the most of this multitalented spice.
What Is Chinese Hot Mustard?
Chinese hot mustard, which can be found as a powder in the spice aisle, or as a sauce in the condiment section, is made from brown mustard seeds. These have more heat and are more pungent than white mustard seeds (the kind used to make yellow mustard), setting them apart from the rest of those squeeze bottles next to the ketchup. To make Chinese hot mustard, the seeds are first dehydrated, and then ground into a fine, buttery beige powder that’s much more tame in appearance than taste.
“It has a very particular horseradish, or wasabi-like, sinus-clearing quality to it. It punches you in the nose,” says Christina Chaey, Bon Appétit contributor. It’s a versatile spice, but a little goes a long way.
How Do You Cook With Hot Mustard?
Chinese hot mustard is often sold as a dry powder (such as S&B brand). One step is crucial: In order to allow it to develop its sharp and spicy flavor before using, mix the mustard powder with cold water, and let soak for 10 to 15 minutes. This activates the enzymes and compounds that bring its characteristic heat. Once your mustard is soaked, you’ll want to use it right away—its heat and pungency will fade quickly. Vinegar can also be incorporated in addition to water (rice wine is a tasty option) which will make the mustard milder, and its potency last longer.
Hydrated, ready-to-use Chinese hot mustard is also widely available and a reliable option, but because they may include vinegar to help stabilize the product, it’s likely to not be as spicy as blooming the mustard powder at home with cold water.
Whether you’ve tried soaking mustard powder, or you’ve got a bottle of prepared mustard on standby, give it a try it in Susan Kim’s Yuba Salad With Hot Mustard and Honey Dressing or in the saucy marinade of this One-Pan Braised Chicken With Soy Sauce and Tomatoes. The pungency does wonders for adding depth, heat, and extra oomph that takes it from good to memorable.
“A little dab would be really good with fried chicken, or a swipe in a turkey sandwich,” says Chaey. “Classically, with Chinese takeout, you eat it with egg rolls—really anything yummy and fried, because it cuts that rich, fatty, quality.” Once you have it at home, we recommend serving it with crispy coconut shrimp, fried eggplant spears, or this flaky everything-spice fish.
Where Can You Find Hot Mustard?
Look for Chinese hot mustard at Asian grocery stores, online, or in the international aisle of your supermarket. If it’s difficult to source, Colman’s English mustard is a reliable substitute in a pinch, with a sharp pungency that can fill in as dupe. It’s made from a combination of both white and brown mustard seeds, giving it that signature kick.