doubanjiang

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My grandma’s homemade hot sauce is the glue that holds all of her food together. I have searched high and low for a hot bean paste (doubanjiang) that rivals the one she spends days making. It’s a painstaking process and why most people would rather just go out purchase jarred hot sauce before trying to dry and ferment their own chilies and broad beans.  Fuschia Dunlop calls doubanjiang the “essential flavorings of the Sichuanese kitchen.” Aspiring Sichuan cooks like myself can agree–it transforms a dish from just being good to mouthwateringly tasty. I use her hot sauce in everything–mapo tofu, cold noodles liang mian, beef noodle soup, stir fried anything, bang bang chicken, and more. This particular jar was sent to me via Fedex (Thanks Mom!) when I alerted the fam that I was running low. Stay tuned to see what I’ll be making with it!

Condiment Pairing: Smooth yet spicy, Chicago producer Juke Ellington’s “Love In Space” turns up the heat, just like grandma's doubanjiang.

Know Your Ingredients: Pixian Doubanjiang (郫县豆瓣酱)

Sichuan cuisine is known for its fiery dishes flavored with garlic, chilies, scallions and Sichuan peppercorn. Many recipes rely on a spicy fermented bean paste known as la doubanjiang (辣豆瓣酱), considered the soul of Sichuan cooking, for added depth and flavor. The most prized doubanjiang comes from the town of Pixian (Pixian doubanjiang, 郫县豆瓣酱). The 500 Tasty Sandwiches test kitchen uses paste made by the celebrated Sichuan Province Pixian County Bean Paste Company though it is not particularly easy to find (we buy it at Hong Kong Supermarket, 157 Hester Street, NYC) . Fuchsia Dunlop, who penned the authoritative cookbook Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking along with the memoir Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, recommends using Lee Kum Kee’s chili bean sauce if authentic Sichuan varieties are unavailable.

Lee Kum Kee is a Hong Kong-based company. There’s nothing wrong with that in of itself but how would you feel about jar of Italian marinara sauce manufactured in Paris? Independent of quality, local tastes and ingredients influence production.


The flavor? Pixian doubanjiang is nutty, savory (umami), and has a warming, earthy spiciness with subtle notes of sweetness derived from the fermentation process (similar to Korean gochujang (고추장)). Whole pieces of broad beans (i.e., fava beans) often remain in the finished product, making its texture rather coarse. When fried in oil, doubanjiang imparts its brick red color to all that enters the wok. Oil and doubanjiang, in fact, are all one needs to whip together an impressive Sichuan dish, owing to the sauce’s complex flavor.

The use of Pixian doubanjiang shouldn’t be limited to Sichuan cuisine. Try incorporating it into your favorite burger or chile con carne recipes. Enliven vegetable soups and scrambled eggs. Step up your barbecue game with a bit of this Sichuan delight.

For more on Sichuan cuisine check out Fuchsia Dunlop’s books as well as Matt Gross’ piece in the March 2013 issue of Saveur magazine, Capital of Heat. Not sure where to begin with doubanjiang? Try our recipes for Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐), Fish-Fragrant Eggplant (魚香茄子) and Spicy Doubanjiang Beef (辣豆瓣酱炒牛肉).

Instant Zhajiang Mian

So last time I made zhajiangmian I had like, more than half a jar of each type of sauce left over, and they’d been sitting in my fridge sort of forlornly. I had this idea for making super super simple zhajingmian, but didn’t have a chance to try it until now. I think it turned out surprisingly good, and only took maybe five minutes to make.

- 1 packet of ramen (3oz Maruchan packet, any flavor)
- ½ tsp tianmianjiang (sweet soy bean paste)
- ½ tsp doubanjiang (soy bean paste)

Boil 2 cups of water, drop in ramen noodles. Discard flavor packet (or save it to flavor something else). Cook noodles for three minutes stirring occasionally to separate noodles.

Drain noodles and dump into a bowl. Add sauces and mix.

Internet had some interesting ideas for using extra ramen flavoring packets so maybe that’ll be a later post…

Dinner at Mission Chinese

with witness-stand, echonuit, POPEYES PAPI, sayakasugie, and Nickel Cobalt

Lettuce Cups (beef tartare, miso cured salmon roe, fried onions)

Green Tea Noodles (ginger scallion, hoisin, matcha)

Sichuan Pickled Vegetable Platter (vinegar braised peanuts, misozuke, tingly cucumbers)

Stir Fried Cellophane Noodles (flavors of pancit, pork belly, scallop floss, soft egg)

Red Cabbage Salad (sesame, anchovy, seaweed crunchy buckwheat)

Clams in Black Bean Sauce (thickened with pig’s blood)

Shaved Pork Belly (ma la viniagrette, sprouted mung beans, bittermelon)

Mapo Tofu (heritage pork, aged beef fat, doubanjiang)

Mongolian Long Beans

Salt Cod Fried Rice (chinese sausage, lettuce, egg)

Thrice Cooked Bacon & Rice Cakes (shanghainese rice cakes, bitter melon, sweet tofu skins)

Napa Cabbage (steamed in chamomile and masala milk, pistachios, flowers)

Broccoli Beef Brisket (baby chinese broccoli, housemade oyster sauce, seeds)

Salt and Pepper Lamb Rib Tips (kefir creme fraiche, wild sumac, sweet pickles, hot bread)

(the hot bread)

Josefina’s House Special Chicken (removed ribcage, filled with ground sausage with chorizo seasoning, scattered olives and raisins throughout, and soft boiled suspended egg)

Chili Con China

Texas is the birthplace of chili con carne and discussions regarding the authenticity of a recipe can get heated. We love traditional dishes prepared the classic way nearly as much as we loathe their poorly-executed reinterpreted counterpoints. The word fusion has come to represent a class of food in which the sum is less than its parts. Adding nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce) to your pesto genovese doesn’t make you clever; it reveals a certain level of culinary clumsiness. However, in the hands of chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and David Chang who possess a deep understanding of ingredients, flavors, technique and the principles of the regional cuisines they work with, so-called fusion cuisine can be revelatory.

Oh man, after that tirade we hope you like our Chili con China!

Pixian doubanjiang (郫县豆瓣酱), a spicy fermented broad bean and chili pepper paste considered the soul of Sichuan cooking.


At the heart of our recipe is Texas-style chili con carne with a nod to the test kitchen’s own Midwest roots in the form of elbow macaroni. We part ways, respectfully, with the addition of earthy pinto beans and chewy hominy, ingredients considered sacrilege to certain chili connoisseurs. Then comes finely chopped cauliflower which looks like and supplements the ground beef while lending the dish nice texture, something missing from most chili recipes. You could say that the Sichuan ingredients – numbing-hot Sichuan pepper, star anise, soy sauce, and Pixian doubanjiang, a spicy fermented broad bean and chili pepper paste – just happen to be Chinese as they enhance the overall flavor of the dish so seamlessly. Our final “secret ingredient” is a bottle of chocolate stout; its heady aroma and slightly bitter nose ties all the flavors together.

INGREDIENTS
• 1 lb (454 g) ground beef
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 3 red peppers, finely diced
• 8 cloves of garlic, minced
• 3 cups crushed tomatoes (our recipe here)
• 1 cup chicken stock (our recipe here)
• 1 (550 ml) bottle chocolate stout*
• 1/3 cup Pixian doubanjiang
• 2 tablespoons mild (i.e., clover) honey
• 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper
• 1½ tablespoons cumin seeds
• 3 whole star anise pods, freshly dry roasted
• 3 pasilla oaxaqueña chili peppers
• 1 tablespoon dry oregano (Mexican oregano, if available)
• 1 head of cauliflower
• 3 cups prepared hominy (our recipe here)
• 2 cups cooked pinto beans (our recipe here)
• 1 lb (454 g) elbow macaroni
• Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste
• Minced cilantro, to taste

Prepare Select Ingredients
Spices. Place the Sichuan pepper, cumin seeds and star anise in a dry pan over medium-high heat. Gently stir the spices as they toast. Once a few cumin seeds pop immediately transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Pick out the star anise as it will be used whole. Grind the Sichuan pepper and cumin into a powder.

Pasilla oaxaqueña. Slice the peppers in half long-wise and remove their seeds. Discard the stems. Place in a jar and add just enough hot water to completely submerge the peppers. After 15 minutes remove the peppers (reserve the liquid) and finely mince.

Cauliflower. Very finely slice the cauliflower to produce “crumbs” from the florets. Continue to chop the florets and tender stems until the cauliflower has the appearance of ground meat.

Meat, Onions, Pepper & Garlic
In a large pot set over medium-high heat brown the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go. Once browned, drain the meat. Transfer it to a paper towel lined bowl to absorb excess grease. Wipe the pot clean of remaining grease – you do not need to clean it completely – and set it over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil. Once it shimmers add the onion, salt and red pepper. Sauté for 10-15 minutes or until the onions are golden brown and the peppers quite soft. Next add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Liquids & Seasonings
To the pot add the tomatoes, chicken stock, stout, doubanjiang, honey, soy sauce, Sichuan pepper, cumin, star anise, chili peppers (and reserved steeping water) and oregano. Bring to a boil while whisking the mixture to break up the doubanjiang. Boil for 2-3 minutes then reduce heat to low and cook for 1-4 hours (the longer the better). Stir every 20-30 minutes.

Cauliflower
Fold in the cauliflower and cook for an additional 30-60 minutes. Stir several times

Hominy & Beans
Add the hominy and pinto beans and cook for 15 minutes longer.

Serving
Taste the chili and season with additional salt, if necessary. Portion roughly equal parts elbow macaroni and chili and garnish with cilantro and Pecorino Romano before serving.

*The test kitchen happens to like Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout.