Doubanjiang is the soul of Sichuan cuisine. Its deep, earthy, spicy and salty flavour is a secret weapon for many a Sichuan housewife, and is an essential ingredient in Sichuan cooking.
There are many bean pastes and chilli bean pastes in China, but what differentiates the doubanjiang, or douban, as it’s also called, is the use of broad beans (fava beans), instead of soy beans. The beans are initially left to ferment in large terracota crockpots for a few months before red chillies, salt and some wheat flour are added. The whole mix is then left to mature for anything from 1-8 years, getting a stir on a daily basis!
The longer the doubanjiang is left to ferment, the deeper the flavour and the colour, edging towards a reddish brown. The chillies and the beans also break down in that time.
How to use Doubanjiang
I absolutely adore this hot bean paste paste, and have to stop myself from using it indiscriminately in everything I cook! It turns a boring dish into something more.
- It is the ingredient in Mapo Tofu (above) and twice fried pork.
- Sometimes, a quick lunch sees me adding a touch of doubanjiang to an egg (boiled, scrambled, sunny side up), and having that with some rice and a salad.
- Or I lighten it with some lime juice and drizzle it over salad.
- It will transform all your stirfries, whether they are noodles, vegetables or a mix of everything.
Where to buy Doubanjiang?
That’s easy. If you have access to a Chinese grocer or supermarket, chances are, they’ll stock it. My local one is pretty small, but they still have doubanjiang on their shelves at all times.
Failing that, ya know Amazon will stock it, dontcha? And there are many Chinese online food shops these days, that you will most certainly be able to get it online.
You may come across a chilli bean paste called Toban Djan, made by the folks at Lee Kum Kee. This has broad beans and soybeans in it and a whole lot of other unnecessary ingredients (LKK loves additives!).
This hot bean paste leans more towards the Cantonese style of cooking, and, at a push, can be used as a substitute for doubanjiang, if you can’t get the real thing. And if you don’t mind the additives.
Substitute for Doubanjiang
Toban Djang, as mentioned above.
A regular Chinese hot bean paste or dark miso with chilli make an adequate substitute, if you really, really cannot get the real thing. But as mentioned above, you should be able to get it online pretty easily, in the UK as well as in the US. The big bad Amazon sells it!