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Black Sesame Paste - Where can I buy it?

At The Kitchen dim sum this past Satuday morning we had green (a little too oily for me, but still scrumptious!) "balls" with a hot liquid center of sweet, black sesame paste. I have had other dim sum items with sesame paste, but this was very oozy with a sweet, deep sesame flavor.

Can I purchase this sweet, black sesame paste in a Chinese market? How do I find it? What aisle is it on? Does it come in a jar, can or foil pack? What brand do I look for? Are there many different kinds?

I'm thinking with peanut butter, on cottage cheese, with Humboldt Fog cheese, with yogurt, with rice, in oatmeal, in a salad dressing...what other tasty uses might I try?

Thanks!

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  1. liu,

    You can get the black sesame paste in almost any Chinese supermarket (e.g. Tawa or 99 Ranch, Shun Fat, Hong Kong, 168, etc.).

    It comes in a jar. Most brands are probably equally good. Just be warned that when you first open the jar you'll most likely find that the oil and sesame paste has separated (sort of like what happens with freshly ground peanut butter that's been sitting around). Just stir and mix a bit and you'll be fine.

    What aisle?? Can't really recall, but usu. where the spices and other bean pastes are located. Sometimes it's located where the soy sauce and black bean pastes are.

    The black sesame pastes are usu. used for boas, tang-yuan, mochi, etc. If you want to use it as garnish with things like cottage cheese, yogurt, rice, etc., I would suggest you use black sesame powder, which has the same toasty goodness but works much better as a garnish on foods, because you can sprinkle it on things like oatmeal and salads without too much grease and oil.

    My mom brews up a black sesame drink using the powder every morning. Says it keeps her young and her hair black as a moonless night ...

    Hope this helps.

    17 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Hi, ipsedixit! Young is great...black hair - not! But your information helps a LOT! I have spent so many wondrous hours examining the shelves of the Asian markets, but I don't recall ever seeing black sesame paste or black sesame powder (as you have suggested).

      So, where will I find the powder...next to the paste, obviously? Or is the powder with some of the other dried seasonings? Also, are there various kinds of black sesame powders? What kind of container am I looking for if I want to find the powder?

      I know this all sounds so elementary -- for some! However, I get my plan, and then I go to look and I am faced with 200 different kinds of soy sauce or 33 different chili pastes...Any little bits of information will help! Thanks!!!!

      1. re: liu

        Hey there,

        No worries about the questions ... that's what we're all here for, right? To help each other out.

        As to the black sesame powder, it is usually in the breakfast items aisle where they have the Ovaltine and instant oatmeal items.

        As to the black sesame paste, just keep your eyes open. Alot of times, unless you are specifically looking for it, it can easily be hidden amongst all the other pastes, like black bean, etc.

        And, I take it you don't speak Chinese? Then here's a very rudimentary lesson in how to say sesame and black sesame in Mandarin.

        Sesame: "Tzee-ma"

        Black sesame: "Hay Tzee-ma"

        Those are just phoenetic translations, not formal pin-ying.

        So, if you can flag down a store clerk, just say "hay tzee ma" and hopefully they can direct you to the right aisle.

        Good luck and happy shopping.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          ipsedixit -- xièxie 谢谢

          You have gone beyond to help me, and I very much appreciate your phonetic lesson! I am now armed and empowered to meet those aisles and ask for assistance!

          I am always one to ask, and usually another customer is helpful with my rescue. But now I have the words...you are terrific!!!

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Actually, I have seen the black sesame powder where you describe it -- with the oatmeal and breakfast cereals. However, I thought that it might be a sesame cereal, so I didn't pay much attention to it. Now, however, I will search more closely and read the ingredients to find just the plain black sesame powder. Thanks!

            And when your mom makes her morning brew, what else does she add besides hot water to the black sesame powder? Milk? Honey? Tea?

            1. re: liu

              You know, I actually don't know exactly what my mom puts in her black sesame drink other than hot water. I do know that she does steep some ginseng root in the drink.

              I would just be careful about mixing it with something too strong, like honey, as the toasted goodness of black sesame is rather subtle and can be easily overpowered by stronger liquids or ingredients. Case in point, when you go to Phoenix Bakery and order their black sesame drink, it's so sweet you think that they were in cahoots with toothpaste makers ...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                "...in cahoots with toothpaste makers..." Ha-Ha!
                I do agree with you that the add-ins have a way of changing or sometimes canceling the flavor of the drink. I will try it straight before I begin to introduce any modifiers.

                Thanks for getting back to me on this so that now I will know what to do with the powder once I find it!

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  A lot of Korean and Chinese markets have a black sesame soy milk in little juice box containers. So good!

                  1. re: will47

                    Yes, the black sesame soy milk is good! I haven't had it in a long time...I will buy a few next time. I like it very cold, but does anyone drink it warm or hot? Does it separate when heated?

                    And while we're near the subject -- there is a lightly sweetened rice/grain cereal drink (it is milky looking but contains only grains and no dairy) in a plastic bottle with a colorful label, and I can find it only in Korean markets. I have seen it both in small bottles and the huge size. I don't know what this is, but I find it very refreshing when it is extremely cold. Occasionally, I will freeze a bottle and take it to the gym; however, it does have some sugar, so I try not to drink it too often. This also might be a nice hot drink, but I would need some advice on this.

                2. re: liu

                  I just mix it with hot water but I can never get the consistency and taste to match what they serve in a restaurant.

                  1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                    Hi, SomeRandomIdiot!
                    You mix the sesame soy milk in the little cartons with hot water? Where do they serve this? I have never seen it on a menu...do I need to ask for it? What do I ask for? Thanks for any clarification.

                    1. re: liu

                      I meant the black sesame powder. Sorry for the confusion.

                      1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                        Hey, it's not your confusion so much as the placement of the response...which sometimes confuses me!
                        OK - so, you simply mix the black sesame powder with hot water, and voila -- a drink! But you mentioned that you are not able to duplicate what you can get in a restaurant. Where? What do I order? Is it hot or cold? I would like to try it, mixed by a "pro."
                        Also, do you have a particular brand that is your favorite?

                        1. re: liu

                          It's usually served hot in a dim sum place. Haven't had any in a while tho. The texture and intensity of the sesame flavor is always better/stronger in the restaurant. I follow the instructions on the box but it never comes out the same. If I add less water it makes it too chalky and when i had more water it's too runny. There must be some secret ingredient/process that the restaurants use. I don't have a favorite brand, I just buy whatever is in the store.

                          1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                            Thanks!
                            We enjoy dim sum several times a month, so I will ask next time for a black sesame hot drink. If it actually happens, it will surely change my dim sum experience!

                            1. re: liu

                              Why wait for dim sum, you can get a sesame drink at Lollicup, and of course the aforementioned Phoenix Bakery.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Where have I been? Other flavors have always upstaged the sesame. So, you mean that all this time while I was drinking a green tea or watermelon slush, I coulda'-had a sesame something?????

                                Really, I think I have stayed away from it because it has dairy added, I think. I also shy away from drinks where I can't control the sugar content. So, if they want to add a powder that already has the sugar added, I usually go to something else. Do you think it "shameful" if I do soy with the sesame drink?

                                Also, if I am drinking something at Phoenix, it will be their tapioca drink with fresh fruit...love that!

            2. re: ipsedixit

              LOL! My mom says the same thing about black sesame and hair... I'd better not go into detail about the results - I could be disowned... but the nutritional punch that sesame offers can't be denied... thus your mom's youthful outlook and vigor?

            3. Hey Liu, my mom brought some home from Japan on a visit a few years back... it came in a small glass jar, if I remember correctly - maybe the equivalent of 4 ounces? I don't know if they carry it here, but I would think if they did, your best bets in the Japanese stores would be the usual suspects - Marukai and Mitsuwa... maybe even Nijiya?

              The stuff she brought back was presweetened and was damned tasty and goes great on something as simple as a nice toasted slice of bread... but I can see you're already ahead of the game... With it being used so much in Chinese cuisine, I would think it would be available in some form or another in the Chinese markets as well... or do you think they are taking the seeds and making it from scratch? I would think given the right equipment - hell, even a mortor and pestal - you could make your own...

              1 Reply
              1. re: bulavinaka

                "...from Japan." This is good to know because Torrance, Little Tokyo and Sawtelle are 'near-and-dear' to me as destinations!

                Uh -- make it myself? -- I probably couldn't come close?! But now that you mention it, The Kitchen might add some sugar syrup or some other magical potion to give it their desired consistency on the drip meter.

                As soon as I can obtain some, I will play, using it as my base. Thanks for your input and very helpful information.

              2. Please verify what I was told about BLACK sesame paste. I went to 99 Ranch Market and one of the customer service/manager types led me to their shelf of "beige" sesame pastes, both with sugar and without, but told me that I would not find BLACK sesame paste in a market...that I would have to make it myself.

                Does BLACK sesame come in little jars? I have not yet been to Mitsuwa or Nijiya or Marukai for this item...might I find it at any of these larger markets?

                4 Replies
                1. re: liu

                  Yes, BLACK sesame paste definitely comes in a jar. In fact, I remember buying some to make "tang-yuan" -- those gelatinous rice balls filled with sweet fillings like black sesame or red beans.

                  Granted, I haven't looked or bought black sesame in a while, so it might not be made anymore.

                  FWIW, my mom buys black sesame powder to make her drink.

                  Good luck with your search.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I also have found black sesame paste at Mistua Market in downtown that comes in a can that opens with a pull ring and a plastic lid in case you don't use the whole can in one go. I have made a great recipe a number of times from Elizabeth
                    Andoh's Washoku Kitchen wich, is just plain amazake and black sesame paste mixed together and then frozen. Sooooo good when it's hot outside.

                    1. re: L nrs

                      L nrs -- Thanks for responding and with information about what type of container to look for; that helps a lot! I will continue my search next time I am in Mitsuwa.

                      Also, your frozen idea sounds divine...

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      Thanks, again, ipsedixit! I didn't forget about the powder you mentioned. In fact, I saw exactly what I wanted at 99 Ranch, but the package was waaaay too large for my use. I will check for a smaller size when I am in a different Asian market.

                      Also, thanks for your encouragement to continue looking. I was armed this past weekend with the Chinese name that you gave me in an earlier post -- it helped quite a bit! -- but I just could not find the black paste.

                  2. Growing up, my mom used to sometimes make us a breakfast of black sesame rice porridge, made of black sesame seed and sweet (glutinous) rice which we would dust with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar. As i grew older i discovered that my mother must have loved us very much because it took some work to make it from scratch! But they have the porridge in powder form in Korean markets in the same aisle where the curry roux and other various packaged (e.g. mapo tofu, powdered miso soup) under the name, "black sesame rice porridge". Perhaps you could get the same result with black sesame powder/paste and sweet rice (mochi) flour? I really did enjoy this dish very much, but it could be linked strongly to nostalgia...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fudisgud

                      Thanks, fudisqud! This is a nice breakfast option that I will remember for a coolish October morning! I do travel the Korean markets, so next time I am in the Galleria I will look for it.

                    2. I live in Shanghai and will go to the states in about 10 days. I can pick up a bag of 8-10 packets of sesame paste for $5 and send them to anyone who likes. You can just pay via paypal if you're interested. Most people here eat it as a drink, but I add less hot water and eat it like a thick soup- SO YUMMY! Ingredients: rice, black sesame, sugar, soybean, peanut, walnut, cooked starch, calcium lactate, vit E. There's also walnut drink powder and date drink powder. If you want more details or would like me to bring some back and send it to you when I get to the states in 2 weeks, drop me a line at shanghai_angel@hotmail.com before this Saturday (a week from now). If anyone else is looking for something special from a Chinese supermarket, I can also bring it back. I'll just add $3 to the Chinese price + you pay shipping.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Shanghai_angel

                        Hi, Shanghai angel! What a kind and generous offer!

                        I can't think of anything that I want this moment, but I really do appreciate your post and your true 'Hound spirit in wanting to share Shanghai with the States. I now feel like I have a friend in Shanghai...thanks!