There are many kinds of soybean pastes and sauces used in Chinese cooking and Asian cuisine at large, including hoisin sauce, spicy bean sauce, and what we’ll be talking about in this article, regular bean paste, or sweet soybean paste.
We haven’t even mentioned various Korean and Japanese bean pastes! In this wide world of soybean pastes and sauces, things can get a little confusing. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about Chinese sweet soybean paste in this quick article.
What Is Sweet Soybean Paste?
Chinese sweet soybean paste (dòubàn jiàng, 豆瓣酱) is made from fermented soybeans, and is given the designation “sweet” to not just describe its sweet flavor, but also to distinguish it from its well-known cousin, spicy bean paste (là dòubàn jiàng, 辣豆瓣酱). Note that the names are very similar, the spicy version just has one character appended to the beginning––”辣“––which means, “spicy.”
It is similar in taste, color, and texture to sweet bean sauce (tián miàn jiàng, 甜面酱), also known as sweet flour sauce, which is made primarily from wheat flour instead of soybeans. The two are generally interchangeable.
How To Use It
You can use Sweet Soybean Paste in stir-fries, as a condiment, or any recipe that calls for sweet bean sauce (tián miàn jiàng, 甜面酱).
Buying & Storing
You can purchase this ingredient in any Chinese grocery store. Don’t rely on the name of the sauce on the label. Translations from Chinese can vary and there are many bean pastes and sauces available.
Look at the ingredients––you should see soybeans, wheat, and salt. The paste is dark brown and smooth. Don’t confuse it with sweet red bean paste, which comes from adzuki beans (not soybeans). Red bean paste plays a role not in savory dishes, but in baking recipes and desserts.
Refrigerate bean paste after opening. You may find it in plastic packets—try to get it in resealable jars. Otherwise, you can transfer any leftover bean paste from the packet to a clean jar.
It can last in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about a year, as long as clean utensils are always used and the potential for external contamination is minimized.
Substitutions for Bean Paste
If you don’t have sweet soybean paste, you can substitute sweet bean sauce/tianmian jiang or hoisin sauce. While they’re distinct ingredients, they’re often used in place of each other. They are all similar enough in flavor.
If you have further questions about this ingredient, let us know in the comments. We try to answer every single one.