Doubanjiang, douban, or chili bean paste is a Chinese condiment prepared from soy beans, broad beans, rice, salt and spices that are popularly used in the Sichuan region in a large variety of dishes.
According to local legends, immigrants traveling from Central China were carrying the cooked broad bean with them. The immigrants were leaving the city of Chengdu after a big war; and in the hurry, they dumped the beans along with a chili paste into a bag. By the time, they reached their destination; the beans had broken down into the red chili paste resulting in a thick sauce. The locals liked the taste so much that they actually started fermenting the beans with the chili to make the sauce. To thicken it, they also started adding wheat flour. The Doubanjiang recipe has remained essentially the same over the years and several commercial preparations of Doubanjiang are available in Chinese specialty stores.
Ingredients and Preparation
Doubanjiang is prepared from hu dou or fava beans. Fresh red chilies are pulverized and left to ferment in large earthenware containers for five months. The cooked beans, salt and wheat flour are mashed and added to the chili and left to ferment for several more months. Traditionally, the process of making Doubanjiang takes one year, but commercial cooking methods have hastened the process.
Popular Dishes Prepared With Doubanjiang
- Beef short ribs are a common dish prepared with Doubanjiang. The ribs are roasted and then basted with the red paste before serving.
- Mapo tofu is a very popular Sichuan dish that used the douban paste as one of its ingredients.
- Shuizhu is a very popular Sichuan dish prepared with meat or seafood in a douban, ginger, garlic and chili oil.
The best slow cooked version of Doubanjiang is prepared in Chengdu, Pixian, where the original Zhao Feng He company is located. The company has been preparing Doubanjiang since 1666 in their courtyard with traditional cooking methods. Only three to five ingredients are used in the cooking process. The sauce is fermented anywhere from two to eight years and is sold only to private customers. The best variety is fermented for eight years and is considered to be the best in China.