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Oct 19, 2008 10:23 AM

Ma Po - Fermented Black Beans

I want to try making Ma Po Tofu this week and I have a question about one of the ingredients. I grabbed a jar of "Chili with salted black beans" from Hsin Tung Yang a while back at the local Super 88 market. Would this be the same as chili bean sauce or bean paste that I see in most Ma Po recipes?

The ingredients sound right - chili, black beans, salt, soybean oil. Just hoping someone might know. Also, if you have a favorite recipe, I'd love to see it.


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  1. AliG, I've been loving a recipe for Ma Po from Mabziegurl...I'll post it below...she has specific thoughts on the chili paste as you'll see...I personally don't know how your jar of 'chili with salted black beans' would fare because I've only ever made Mabziegurl's and though I've made it a number of times 'cuz I just go crazy over it, I'm not an expert on the subject, so hopefully, someone else can help there. Here's her recipe:

    "its very simple to make.
    i don't really measure since my mother taught me how to make it so i've approximated everything. chinese people usually do everything by taste =)

    make sure the wok is hot, add some oil, add several slices of ginger (keep them fairly large so you can remove them easily) and brown about 1/4 lb of ground pork marinated in a little soy sauce, really chinese people don't marinate, they just stir in soy sauce and wait like 5-10 minutes while they prep the rest of their work
    (usually i buy the leanest ground pork and the fattest ground pork at the market then mix them together, my grandmother taught me this)
    add a teasoon of black beans.
    add chili bean paste, i usually add 3+ soup spoon fulls because i love it spicy.
    add 2 tablepsoons of chinese rice wine (mijiu)
    add one package of cubed silken tofu (silken is the softest tofu)
    i usually taste and add more chili bean paste.

    pull out ginger and of course enjoy over rice. this will probably feed 4 people if accompanied with something else as well.

    Make sure you use good chili bean paste. Don't buy lee kum kee or whatever that brand is for this stuff. There are several different brands, you can try the different brands, but my mom says to stay clear of that brand for most sauces and pastes. We only use that one for Oyster Sauce. It was the one I wanted to grab because it had the most English on it, but my mom says to stay clear of it. The one I buy is from Hong Kong, there's no English brand on it, but it says Chili Bean Paste in English on it =)


    1. The chili bean sauce you want is called douban jiang (AKA toban djan, etc.), made with fermented broad beans and chilis. Most recipes for Ma Po Tofu call for both douban jiang and fermented/salted black beans (dou chi). The best douban jiang is said to come from the town of Pixian in Sichuan Province, but I've never been able to find this locally. The best I can get around here seems to Lee Kum Kee.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Matsukaze

        Not surprisingly, according to the recipe on the jar of LKK toban djan, you can get by with just that sauce.

        1. re: Matsukaze

          Since you mention Super 88 I assume you're in the Boston area.

          Hsin Tung Yang is Taiwanese paste, while good, is not the right flavour for Sichuan food. You really, really need the Pixian variety from Sichuan if you want the right flavour in authentic Mapo Doufu (which is a stark contrast from what most restaurants in US serve). It makes a *big* difference. The most notable difference is that Sichuan doubanjiang is bade with broad beans, not black beans or soybeans.

          Kam Man Food (金門超市) in Quincy, MA carries real Pixian doubanjiang. Get out there and get a bunch to save you future trips. If you aren't sure where to find it, show the following characters to anyone:
          郫县豆瓣 (Pixian Douban)
          and they should be able to help you.

          The brand I strongly recommend is 巧酿坊 (Qiao Niang Fang), distributed by 成都川香美 (Chengdu Chuanxiangmei) which they carry. It comes in both trapezoidal jars (often sold out lately) as well as plastic packages a little further down the aisle, either packaging is fine.

        2. The taste might be a little different, just because of the beans. I noticed that black beans are usually saltier, and the ones with the brown/beige beans are usually milder.

          However, there is a very simple MABO recipe.

          1 Pkg tofu,
          Ground Pork (Depends on meat consumption)
          Soy Sauce
          Cooking wine (To mix with the pork [ again, preference])
          And Chili with Garlic.

          Add pork to pan(With oil), then sauce, then tofu (some water) then chili.

          Or you can always buy the packets that have Mapo Seasoning :D

          1 Reply
          1. re: ObseleteOscar

            Thanks. I see that most of the chili bean pastes are made with broadbeans. I remember hearing that black beans were used in Ma Po, but I guess that is in addition to the bean paste. I'll try this out since it's all I have. Can't be that bad.

            Any recommendations on a good brand of chili bean paste for Ma Po in the future?

          2. I love Fuschia Dunlop's recipe for ma po tofu - link to recipe report and pics below (scroll up that thread for more CH reports on the recipe). As matsukaze mentions, ma po tofu calls for both chili bean paste, and fermented black beans. I've never been able to find Pixian chili paste either, but Dunlop also recommends the Lee Kum Kee brand chili bean paste (toban djan), and to specifically look for those made with the authentic broad/fava beans rather than soybeans. Be sure to use high-quality Sichuan peppercorns too - I use Penzey's.

            Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd

            Pics of ingredients (chili bean paste and fermented black beans) I use.

            I also recently bought another brand (Ming Teh) labeled "Broad Bean Paste with Chili" with a red/blue/orange label. I'll try to post a pic.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rubee

              I agree with Rubee.

              Note to AliG: I actually have made it using a jar of black beans with chili and chili oil and it was really good.. not authentic, but really good.

              I also use Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe.

              1. re: oakjoan

                Thanks Rubee and oakjoan. I found the chili bean paste made with broad beans today at my local Asian grocery store. I also picked up a small package of the salted black beans. I'll try making the dish this weekend.

                oakjoan, since you have made ma po using the black beans with chili, do you have any other recipes or uses for this stuff? I'm trying to think what to do with my jar. Thanks.

              2. re: Rubee

                Recipe link, and I took a pic of the broad bean paste with chili.

                Pock-marked mother chen's bean curd