HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Mystery Chinatown Sauce

sgordon Apr 17, 2012 01:19 PM

I was doing my regular grocery shopping at my usual Chinese market, and I came across a sauce (pictured below) that I didn't recognize - "Gulao Mianchi" - A quick Googling came up with nothing. Anyone heard of it? Gulao is a city in Guangdong, IIRC, and Mianchi is the name of a city in Henan - quite far apart. I'm sure one or the other word has different meanings, though.

So I'm wondering if this is simply some kind of bean paste (it was on the shelf near the various BPs) in one or the other's regional style? I appears (through the jar) a bit different than a Doubanjiang - darker, really black, and very thick, almost solid. What's making it confusing is that there aren't any english ingredients on the label - the only English is the brand and product name.

Granted, it's only $1.49 or something, so I should probably just buy it and find out - just wondering if anyone's heard of this stuff before, because I sure haven't, and I know my Chinese regional ingredients pretty well. (Not as well as some others here, but pretty good for a gweilo...)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Cheeryvisage RE: sgordon Apr 17, 2012 01:34 PM

    Here's the Baidu entry on Gulao Mianchi: http://baike.baidu.com/view/2680844.htm

    Mianchi is miso. According to that link, Gulao miso is a specialty of the city of Heshan in Guangdong province. This particular miso came about around the year 1850.

    1. scoopG RE: sgordon Apr 17, 2012 02:09 PM

      Gulao (古劳 Gǔ láo) refers to ancient. (That may be a Cantonese variant, often the characters 古老 are used.) It is a type of fermented salted bean paste.

      2 Replies
      1. re: scoopG
        Cheeryvisage RE: scoopG Apr 17, 2012 02:34 PM

        If Wikipedia can be believed (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8F%A... ), Gulao is a small township under the city of Heshan. The name came from Gu and Lao, which were the two biggest clans of this town.

        1. re: Cheeryvisage
          scoopG RE: Cheeryvisage Apr 17, 2012 02:45 PM

          Thanks...I know Gu and Lao are both surnames. Gulao is now on my list of villages to visit!

      2. Bacardi1 RE: sgordon Apr 17, 2012 03:48 PM

        For just $1.49, I'd be more then tempted to just buy it, taste it, & then experiment with what it might combine well with. :)

        1. sgordon RE: sgordon Apr 18, 2012 11:41 AM

          Thanks for the info, folks - yeah, I figured it was a bean paste of some kind or another - whether it's sweet, spicy (doesn't appear to have chilies in it, but you never know) or what I just couldn't figure out without ingredients. Suppose I'll just pick up a jar and report back.

          5 Replies
          1. re: sgordon
            scoopG RE: sgordon Apr 18, 2012 06:13 PM

            sg- I would not expect chilies in a Cantonese bean paste!

            1. re: scoopG
              sgordon RE: scoopG Apr 19, 2012 07:43 AM

              Well, nothing on it said "Cantonese" - so, who knows? That fact that it wasn't red suggested the lack of such, though, as those at least have some kind of red tint usually.

              Anyway - I bought it. Nothing terribly exciting inside. Basically tastes like standard black bean sauce, only ultra-thick, maybe a little thicker than a normal Japanese miso, and a bit one-note. VERY concentrated - the jar could last me a year. Not really of much use if you've already got fermented black beans in your pantry, though, so I probably won't even wind up using the rest.

              1. re: sgordon
                Bacardi1 RE: sgordon Apr 19, 2012 01:18 PM

                Thanks for the report/review. Since I ALWAYS have fermented black beans in my pantry & only buy black bean sauce/paste to add an occasional dollop to ramen soup, doesn't look like something that would excite me.

                Again - thanks!

                1. re: sgordon
                  will47 RE: sgordon Apr 19, 2012 04:50 PM

                  It does seem to be made in heshan '鹤山市' (a city in Guangdong), though it's kind of cut off (bottom left).

                  1. re: sgordon
                    huiray RE: sgordon Apr 19, 2012 06:09 PM

                    Well, scoopG and Cheeryvisage above mentioned its provenance...

                    Also, under the weight info (...370g etc...) is the phrase 广东省著名商标 (traditional: 廣東省著名商標) which says it is a famous trademark of Guangdong.

                    I might think it'd give a different taste profile to something other than your fermented black beans? (In combination with whatever else you put into a particular dish) [I did find one recipe where it is used in the sauce for a dog meat stew... :-) ]

                    Another source for it: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=40...

              2. Chemicalkinetics RE: sgordon Apr 19, 2012 06:33 PM

                Like everyone said, it looks to be a bean paste: 麵豉醬 There are tons of different version of bean pastes, just like there are various versions of soy sauces.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                  sgordon RE: Chemicalkinetics Apr 19, 2012 07:48 PM

                  Well, bean pastes can vary pretty wildly in terms of flavor, from a mild white Japanese miso that's redolent of butterscotch to a Korean doenjang to a Szechuan doubanjiang to... well, to this stuff.

                  On the other hand, while there are better and worse brands, most soy sauces have the same -basic- flavor profile, with a couple major variations like sweetend soy sauce and "white" shiro soy.

                  1. re: sgordon
                    Chemicalkinetics RE: sgordon Apr 19, 2012 07:54 PM

                    :) I don't know. There are certainly the so called thin (light) soy sauces and the thick (dark) soy sauces, and those can taste very different to me. Then, if you count the thick soy sauce paste, then it tastes very different:


                    Anyway, this is definitely a bean paste from what I can see.

                    1. re: sgordon
                      huiray RE: sgordon Apr 20, 2012 04:34 PM

                      Hmm. I don't know your preferences - but I'm wondering if your tastes run towards the fiery Sichuan, Korean, Hunan types of cuisines? Perhaps you find Cantonese dishes and ingredients too plain for your taste? [Do you like a simple steamed fish with scallions and ginger with soy sauce?]

                      1. re: huiray
                        sgordon RE: huiray Apr 21, 2012 08:42 AM

                        Not sure who that question is aimed at, huiray - or why you're asking. Nobody's said anything good or bad about Cantonese cuisine. Or anything, for that matter.

                        As to the taste profile, which you asked about above: no, it really just kind of tastes like concentrated fermented black beans. Only major difference is the texture. Maybe there's a reason this "famous" Guangdong paste isn't really so famous... I mean, not every place called "Famous Ray's" is actually famous, after all...

                        1. re: sgordon
                          huiray RE: sgordon Apr 21, 2012 10:01 AM

                          (((Shrug))) It probably isn't that famous here in the US or in the West, but could well be famous or widely used in China or surrounding areas? After all, I don't think they're really marketing it to English-speaking people (or regions) since, as you originally pointed out, the only English on the label is the name - and even that is much smaller than the name in Chinese. :-)

                          [It seems to me that the trademark/brand designation is granted by the Guangdong state authorities, not self-declared by the company - as a "Famous Ray's Ribs" might be... Anyway, my post regarding that designation on the label was more in response to where you had said that "Well, nothing on it said "Cantonese" "]

                          I remember when I was growing up my mother used pretty straightforwards bean paste, pretty thick and concentrated - your description of this sauce sounds familiar - for various dishes, including steamed short-cut pork ribs, fish, that sort of thing - and introduced additional flavors with the use of other ingredients. But that was a long time ago.

                  Show Hidden Posts