How Chinese Hot Mustard Gets Its Distinct Spicy Kick

Chinese hot mustard is often served alongside fried appetizers like egg rolls, spring rolls, wontons, and shrimp balls, or tucked into the bottom of a bag of takeout. And while it might bear a passing physical resemblance to the yellow mustard we eat with our hot dogs, the flavor of Chinese hot mustard hits the same way horseradish or the wasabi that we consume with sushi would. No chili or hot sauce is added to Chinese hot mustard; that bite comes naturally with brown mustard seeds which are used to make this type. The kick is caused by the breakdown of two sulphur compounds called sinigrin and myrosin. This chemical reaction produces a spicy oil when the seed's cells are broken and mixed with water.

When it is served up in restaurants, Chinese hot mustard is often made fresh by mixing a dry powder with water, and then setting that aside to let the condiment pick up some heat. The process should take about 15 minutes.  Pre-made hot mustard contains more ingredients, usually including starch, vinegar, salt, and turmeric.

How to make Chinese hot mustard at home

If you want to make hot mustard at home, you can go to an Asian store to get Chinese hot mustard powder or order it online. But even if you don't have the actual Chinese version of the powder, it's still possible to make mustard at home with a similar level of heat. Cooks at The Woks of Life recommend a mixture of English mustard powder, salt, white pepper, vegetable oil, and rice vinegar, which can be adjusted to taste by tweaking quantities of water and oil to make the condiment's consistency thinner. If you want to make the mustard spicier, do away with the vinegar and add either pepper or more mustard powder.

Getting the water temperature correct is essential in making Chinese hot mustard from scratch because the dry condiment has enzymes which can only produce that signature kick when mixed with cold water. Warm water will keep the heat in the condiment from developing, so if you're looking to make a spicier mustard, it's important to get your water temperatures right.