Chinese spicy fermented bean paste (豆瓣酱, Dou Ban Jiang) is also known as broad bean paste (on most authentic Chinese packaging) and chili bean sauce. It is a thick dark reddish brown paste, that has a strong fermented savory, salty and spicy taste. It is made from wide beans, salt and chili pepper.
Although spicy fermented bean paste is a well-known spice in Szechuan cuisine, it is actually widely used in various Chinese regional cuisines, including those of Hebei, Shandong, Anhui, Chongqing, and Shanxi. It has a complex savory flavor that resembles that of soy sauce, but with stronger notes of fermentation, and is very spicy. It can be used in various types of dishes, such as salad, stew, soup, marinade, and stir-fry.
The bean paste is very spicy and salty, so be mindful of the amount used when cooking with it, and reduce or eliminate the amount of salt accordingly.
Try to find the authentic brand – Pi Xian Doubanjiang (also as Pi Xian Broad Bean Paste). Pi Xian is a district in Sichuan province and is famous for producing high quality fermented bean paste. It’s a very authentic approach for cooking Szechuan cuisine or other Chinese dishes. You can find Pi Xian Broad Bean Paste on Amazon, but the price is higher than Asian grocery store.
Be aware that there are several types of Asian spices that go by the name fermented bean paste, including Japanese miso and Korean gochujiang. There are also several Chinese condiments that are always referred to as fermented bean paste, for example, douchijiang (black bean paste) and huangjiang (yellow soybean paste). They have very distinct flavors and shouldn’t be used as alternatives. Try to jot down the ingredient’s original name before shopping, so you can be sure to pick the right type.
Once opened, the paste can be stored in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 3 months.