Sichuan chilli bean paste

Posted by Fuchsia on January 25, 2010

I spent yesterday experimenting in my kitchen with Zhang Xiaozhong, the head chef of Barshu restaurant, where I work as consultant. A few people have emailed me to ask which Chinese seasonings to use, and so while Chef Zhang was here, I asked him to give me his opinion of a few versions of chilli and broad bean paste (豆瓣酱), which is one of the essential flavourings of the Sichuanese kitchen. When I first started writing about Sichuanese food, the only brand available in the West seemed to be Lee Kum Kee’s chilli bean sauce (toban djan), but a few others are now on sale in Chinatown in London. These are the ones we tasted, with some of Chef Zhang’s comments:

Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co

Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co

Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co Ltd: This was the best of the bunch, with a good colour and taste, and no extraneous ingredients. It simply  contains chillies, broad (fava) beans, salt and wheatflour, as it should. This one is close to those people use in Sichuan, although it’s by no means a top-level product (Serious chefs in Sichuan, however, often commission artisanal products from small workshops, because they don’t trust those produced by factory operations.)

Lee Kum Kee

Lee Kum Kee

Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Sauce (toban djan): Chef Zhang points out that this is made by a Cantonese rather than a Sichuanese company, and contains various non-traditional additives, such as sugar, garlic, modified cornstarch, lactic acid and two flavour enhancers. (It’s hard to understand why additives are required in a product that traditionally keeps well and is intensely flavoured…) He didn’t feel this was really suitable for creating an authentic Sichuanese ‘homestyle flavour’ (家常味型), because the colour and the flavour were wrong. (Sichuanese chilli bean pastes, once matured, have a deep, almost-purplish red colour.)

Chuan Lao Hui

Chuan Lao Hui Pixian Douban (川老汇郫县豆瓣):He thought this one was ‘ordinary, OK (一般)’. He preferred the ‘red oil chilli bean sauce’ (红油豆瓣)produced by the same company, although he wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about that either. (The ‘red oil’ version does, however, contain various extra ingredients, including sugar, MSG and spices, while the regular version contains only chillies, broad (fava) beans, salt and wheatflour. Non-Chinese speakers will be able to recognise it because the pot is the same distinctive shape, but the sauce itself is a lighter red, and oily). The regular Pixian paste is also available in plastic packages (picture below).

Lao Chuan Hui

Chuan Lao Hui 2

Hope this is helpful.

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100 Comments to Sichuan chilli bean paste

Liuzhou Laowai
25 January 2010

Never mind in the west! Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Sauce is about the only one I can find in Guangxi, China

Michael Zehrer
25 January 2010

But where can I get “Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co Ltd” in Europe?

25 January 2010

Liuzhou Laowai – what shocking news! Lee Kum Kee have obviously been tremendously successful in marketing their products in Mainland China. When I was first learning to cook in Sichuan, I never came across the brand. A few years later, Lee Kum Kee sauces of various kinds were popping up in many kitchens, high and low.

Michael, I’m afraid I’ve no idea! But I suspect better Chinese supermarkets might stock their products. More and more regional, non-Cantonese seasonings are being sold in London, because of the growth of travel, study and immigration by people from across the mainland…

25 January 2010

I have not seen the sichuan Dan Dan product in New York or New Jersey. The lee Kum lee product is i believe readily available and the Chuan lao Hui in its distinctive shape bottle can be found in Chinese Supermarkets.
I prefer a product called Pixian Seasoned Bean (also called Pixian Thick Broad-Bean) which is available in New York in a soft plastic container from Chengdu Xin Hong Wang Company (is this a well known company in sichuan?) ; the listed ingredients are in order Chili, broad beans, salt, wheat flower and potassium sorbate. There is also another product ,which i haven’t used yet, available in a clear plastic with the identical ingredients but aside from the words Super Lucky, everything else is in Chinese, so i can’t make out the manufacturer. I’ve used the Pixian Seasoned Bean very successfully ( i think ) in Fuchsia’s recipes.

25 January 2010

It’s a shame the Lee Kum Kee is the most readily available. Last time I bought it I thought it had too many chilli skins in there.

26 January 2010

The best one I’ve found here in Canberra (Australia) is <a href=”″this one which gives ingredients as “broad bean, chilli, flour, salt” and has JuanningDouban” on the label.

Lee Kum Kee is the Coca Cola of Chinese sauces ;)

Stuart Fellows
26 January 2010

I think I’ve got another one from Gao Fu Ji Food: it’s in the same-shaped plastic jar but says “Hong You Dou Ban”, ingredients “broad bean, chilli, flour, salt, oil”. I like it a lot: whole half beans and lots of chilli. Is this something different? I’m becoming a little confused…

26 January 2010

Ah, that’s very useful – will have to keep an eye out for the Dan Dan sauce next time I am shopping in China Town

26 January 2010

Stuart – the ingredients sound promising. And some of the coarser pastes are sold with whole half beans and very large pieces of chilli in them. When I was learning to cook in Sichuan most pastes came like this, and we had to chop them to a puree with our cleavers, on a wooden board, before we used them. (If you are chopping a reasonable quantity, you could do this in a food processor.) Nowadays, most pastes are sold in a finer version so you can use them straight from the jar – I presume they ferment them whole, and then process them to a paste before packaging.

26 January 2010

I’ve been on the Pixian chilli broad bean paste hunt for years and always kept an eye on the stores to see what they stock. Here are the varieties of Pixian chilli and broad bean paste I came across in the past years, and here is a website comparing brands [google translate]. As of late, it seems the real stuff from Pixian is disappearing again from the stores.

26 January 2010

Fuchsia Hello, I live in Minsk (Belarus), today finished reading your book on the Russian edition, it’s great! Thank you for your work! I work as a cook and I am very interested in Asian cuisine, but so far only theoretically. I also love to hitch-hike and hope to make their great culinary journey.
I hope to visit China and to take your book as a guide))
Thank you for the inspiration!!!

Vladimir, 23 years

30 January 2010

Hi Vladimir – I’m an American who spends a lot of time in Shanghai and I’m also a big fan of Fuschia’s books. I’m going to be in Minsk in March. Perhaps I could bring you some Pixian Chili Bean Paste from China in exchange for helping me to find a good place to eat in Minsk?

31 January 2010

Hi Vladimir, it’s lovely to hear from you, and I can hardly believe that my book is being read in Belarus, in Russian! So thanks for your message. And I am v amused by the idea that this blog might become a place for people to exchange tips on hot restaurants in Minsk!

31 January 2010

Hello Fuchsia, thanks very much for the tips. I use Toban Jhan chilli bean paste by Amoy. It has 44% chilli, 6% fermented salted soy beans, and salt, water, soy sauce, suger, flavouring and “flavour enhancer E621″. Not perhaps enough beans (and not broad beans), but this is sometimes available in supermarkets in the UK.

Could you do something similar for Sichuanese dried chillies? The Cool Chile Company you name in your great book “Sichuan Cookery” no longer sells them. I only have occasionally found them in one of the Chinese supermarkets on Gerrard Street in London.

31 January 2010

Hi Fuchsia, great infromation thank you. ALways wonder what production standards for food stuff are in China. Would it be possible to make the ‘basic’ sauces (also hoisin etc. ) yourself and up the quality? Bit of a shame nobody sells good stuff via the internet.

Stuart Fellows
1 February 2010

You can get sichuan chillies (and facing heaven chillies) from the Spice Shop (just off Portobello Road)

Thomas K.
1 February 2010

Went into the local Asia shop today to buy some fresh tofu and chilis and BANG there was Sichuan chili bean paste on the shelf. Of course I did not dream of being able to purchase this stuff so easily in my little midGerman town, but alas I was lucky.

The stuff comes from V.R. China (the real thing), imported by “Tainkimheng Germany” (they do have a website). Apparently if judged from the label in greater quantities produced factory product. Ingredients: vegetable oil, wheat flour paste, beans (not specified), chili, salt, unfortunately benzoate and sorbate (from the wheat paste) plus MSG. Very oily, deep brownish red, texture fine, not coarse. Smells good, tastes good (although I can`t compare with the other Sichuanese bean pastes). Can`t translate the (chinese) Kanji though.

In the first place I went to the shop to buy korean chili flakes to make korean chili paste (gochujang). (I cannot convince my wife to eat the regular korean chili paste which she finds too stinky). This generated the idea to ask: … … Fuchsia, (or somebody else), you would not be able to accidentally coax the recipe to make a basic sichuan chili bean paste at home out of a friend who commissions this stuff? Or look it up in a chinese sichuan cooking book? Of course, only for the real aficionados?? (I would be willing to trade in the korean recipe, but since it is pretty much public, this is not sooo good a bargain).

1 February 2010

I found jars of Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co douban jiang by happy accident a few weeks ago. I was trying to find something more pungent and true to the taste of douban jiang than what I could get out of the LKK version. I have to say it is much better (though of course, not quite like what you can source in China).

It’s available at See Woo Hing Supermarket on Lisle Street in London Chinatown. It’s the supermarket that has the green & gold theme. I didn’t find it in the sauces aisle, but rather on the shelves above the freezer items next to some vinegars and cooking alcohol. Just keep an eye out for the wicker basket.

Also, there is no jar inside the wicker basket! The sauce comes in a plastic bag and you have to find your own jar for storage.

2 February 2010

This past fall I took a cooking course at a Chinese trade school in Shanghai. I noticed that the chef would spend about several minutes chopping the paste before using it (someone mentioned this above) and he also warned that it’s easy to end up with an over-salty dish when using it.

He recommended that you limit or eliminate other salt in the dish, and add a bit of sugar to counter the saltiness. We were also told that as a general rule, the cheaper brands of chili bean paste are saltier.

I’ve come to think of genuine Pixian chili bean paste as the secret ingredient for fantastic Sichuan food, but at the same time I’ve found that it can make a dish way too salty if you’re not careful.

Stuart Fellows
11 February 2010

Oh, and by the way, the chilli seeds germinate nicely and grow into bearing plants

Daniel Möller
11 February 2010

For my humble Sichuan cooking experiments I used 3 different brands of douban jiang until now. The first one was the hot bean sauce by Yeo’s (a company from Malaysia). The second one was Lee Kum Kee product mentioned above. The third, last and best one was an native sichuanese douban jiang from Pixian. I read once, this city is well known for the best douban jiang. Unfortunatly this one was only available for a short time in the asian grocery of my choice. It was indeed darker than the Lee Kum Kee product and had a stronger flavour. Astonishingly the Yeo’s product was much closer to the original in colour and flavour, although it is made of soy beans instead of fava beans. Meanwhile I saw one or two other brands in the asian grocery, but I didn’t test them.
For my red-braised beef from your “Land Of Plenty” last weekend I used the douban jiang by LKK. By the the way: One of the best – if not the best – chinese cooking books I own. The best sichuanese one anyway. Thank you!


15 February 2010

We’ve really enjoyed a chili sauce from a company called Laoganma. The only english product identifier seems to be “oil chili” but the label features a photo of a stern looking chef in a white apron. Among the ingredients are MSG and Sodium Dioxide which we aren’t thrilled with. It also contains Szechuan peppercorns but no fava beans. I love the flavor, though. I can almost eat it out of the jar…

I have been substituting this sauce for Szechuan chili paste in the recipes – am I changing the flavors a lot by doing so?

Is it possible to make one’s own chili paste? We have ready access to Chinese and Korean dried chilis. Have you run across any recipes that you could share?

I’ll echo the common sentiment here that your books are incredible resources. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge!


Bruce Marlin
15 February 2010

Thanks for your informative post. I’m endlessly browsing the aisles of bottled sauces and condiments of the Chinese markets here in San Francisco, and it’s very rare to find a good brand of hot bean sauce.

I’m also interested in making my own, but I haven’t been able to find a recipe. I’d be grateful if you have any information you could share.


16 February 2010

Bruce, Brian-the cookbook Classic Chinese Cookbook-by Yan Kit So ( included in the bibliography of Fuchsia’s Landy of plenty), describes a home preparation of Sichuan Chili Paste-grind “sufficient” chili peppers in a food processor or mortar and pestle and mix with yellow bean sauce (assume one with broad beans). She mentions a starting proportion of 1 tablespoon chili to two tablespoons bean sauce (mild version). Hope this helps or begins discussion.

16 February 2010

Just wanted to say that I acknowledge all the requests for information about how to make chilli bean paste at home. I will post about it at some point – I have documented a few methods in Sichuan, but they are buried in notebooks and I just haven’t had time to dig them out! But watch this space…

Graham Booth
17 February 2010

Excellent post on chilli bean paste, which I am now slightly unhealthily obsessed by thanks to your book!

I can confirm that the Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co and its attractive basket have made it to Manchester and now into my cupboard (I actually thought it was the Pixian brand, just in a special package).

Incidentally, whilst in Chengdu last year I tried to arrange a visit to the Pixian douban factory, in a sort of weird pilgrimage. As I can’t speak Chinese, I asked the receptionist at my hostel if she could call the factory for me and ask (after a few weeks of miming your way around China you tend to lose your embarrassment about making such ridiculous requests of people!). Sadly it seems the factory doesn’t accept visitors…but I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t at least tried. Did you actually go there one time Fuschia, or am I imagining that?

More successfully, I did visit the “Cookery Museum” outside of Chengdu which features a restaurant where you can order dishes and watch them cooked in the kitchen from behind a glass screen. Having learned what little I know about Sichuan cookery by experimenting in my flat with a teflon wok and various items retrieved from Chinatown, I found this absolutely fascinating and would highly recommended it (despite the trek to get there). I also got to try my first rice crust…it was just a shame I couldn’t eat (and therefore see) more!

It also occurs to me now that they had a very large special “menu” of many Sichuanese dishes with their names in both Chinese and English, which I begged to be able to photocopy. I think it might be the standardised menu that got circulated around the time of the olympics. Has anyone seen an online version?


17 February 2010

Graham- we will be in Chengdu in March for a two week cooking program at the Sichuan Institute for High Cuisine; would be interested in a side trip to the “cookery” museum , can you provide any details on location, etc? Is there any reference on internet?

17 February 2010

Hi Graham
Yes, I did visit the Pixian doubanjiang factory many years ago! I think I was very lucky to be allowed in – as far as I can remember, the initial answer was no, but eventually they relented. I wrote about the place in my Sichuan cookery book, I think in the introduction to the recipe for fish braised in chilli bean sauce.

I don’t think the Sichuan food museum would be using the Beijing Olympics menu – I had a copy of that and don’t think it was that strong on Sichuanese and other regional dishes.

Graham Booth
18 February 2010

Hi Fuchsia,

Good to hear you actually did visit the factory and I didn’t dream it (whilst doubanjiang is definitely something of an obsession, I’d prefer to keep it a conscious one)! Now I know where the section is in the book I’ll look it up again. And I’m very much looking forward to your home-made artisanal chilli broad bean paste recipe…

As for the translated menu, I’ll scan and put up online when I get time, then post here about it. It may be of value to other non-Chinese speakers visiting Sichuan. I only acquired it pretty late in my trip, sadly.

I have to say that I found not knowing the language could lead to quite disappointing restaurant experiences, especially in more formal places, (a good reason to learn Chinese if ever their was one!).

Of course I got a fair amount of mileage from the random “point and pick” method! On the whole I had far more success with street-side or small-restaurant eating, where you could often see the produce and choose something you hadn’t tried before. The food seemed far more like home cooking, but that was generally no bad thing.

I would definitely advise any prospective traveler to arm themselves with as many menus featuring Chinese characters as possible (including the sections of your books covering cooking styles and flavour combinations, which were very helpful!). One question though – is there a practical reason that the pinyin translations in your books don’t include tonal markings? I always wondered why…


18 February 2010

I agree that it’s difficult to order well in Chinese restaurants without knowing the language – that was what spurred me on in my studies in Chengdu! I used to beg restaurants to let me photocopy their menus, and then sit in a teahouse with a dictionary and learn the characters.

Graham – someone else asked me recently why I hadn’t included tonal markings in my books.I suppose it’s mainly because they look messy, and are only helpful to a very small proportion of people who know a little Chinese but can’t read characters. If you can’t speak Chinese at all, it’s quite hard to pronounce the pinyin in a way that is comprehensible to someone Chinese, with or without the tonal marks. And if you are beyond a certain level with Chinese, chances are you’ll be able to read the characters anyway. But I do recognise that it’s annoying for people who are starting to learn!

I suppose if I’d intended the Sichuan book to be used as a guidebook, I’d have thought more about it, but when I wrote it I had no idea that people would start showing up with it in Chengdu and using it to sniff out dishes in local restaurants! I’m sorry if you find it frustrating, anyway.

19 February 2010

Fuchsia-the conversation here refers to “The” Pixian Chili Paste Factory -is there only one in the Pixian area? The labels on products i’ve seen give different manufacturers but perhaps they are all subs of one.

Graham Booth
20 February 2010


I forget where I first heard about the museum, but I managed to dig some details off the net:

Museum of Sichuan Cuisine
Including Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Interactive Demonstration Hall 成都川菜博物馆
Pixian Guchengzhen
(028) 87919398

“One of the first privately owned museums in China, the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine was founded in 2007 to pay elegant homage to the history of Sichuan food. It holds a private collection of local cooking equipment and tableware that spans 2,000 years. Besides the exhibition galleries, the beautiful and expansive museum campus also features a tea house, a temple to the Kitchen God, several grand banquet rooms and a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen. In an exclusive arrangement with Lotus Culinary Travel, the museum’s Cuisine Masters will lead guests in preparing classic Sichuan dishes.”

Here are some panoramic view of the museum…

…and also this video, which is set in the museum itself.

Don’t worry, there were no dancing people eating chicken when I visited (though the two ladies who showed us round were quite entertaining) and in fact the museum itself was reasonably austere. I didn’t get that much out of the exhibition part (some nice vegetable fermentation pots not withstanding), but being able to see professional chefs at work in the interactive demonstration hall really amazed me. So much skill, speed and invention with the minimum of tools (cleaver, wok, ladle – that’s it!). This is what is so inspiring about Chinese cookery, I think. If you’re doing a course at the Sichuan Higher Institute you will see (and try) much the same as in the hall, though it will give you a chance to try more dishes and see them being prepared and cooked. The bit around 2:53 gives you an idea of what to expect anyway.

In case it isn’t clear from the above, the museum is in Pixian county, not in Chengdu itself – so if going by public transport from Chengdu you should definitely take a full day out to get there and back (journey took at least an hour from Chengdu centre, plus additional time to find the right station). This is the only thing that stopped me revisiting the day after!

I’m very jealous of your Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine trip – was it easy to arrange? How long can you study there? I’m planning a trip to China again this summer and would be very interested to hear how you get on…


21 February 2010

Graham- thanks for your very helpful information, perhaps we should take further discussion offline so we don’t clog up fuchsia’s blog. My e-mail is ; if you write to me i’ll provide you with all the details.

14 April 2010


I just discovered your blog after reading Shark’s Fin and and Sichuan Pepper. I’ve started cooking my way through Land of Plenty. I’ve also been digesting Chowhound threads which have exhaustive information from other people cooking through your books. So much to read…

I live in NYC, and was wandering through Chinatown yesterday looking for ingredients. I picked up this chile bean paste:

It’s really flavorful, but is labeled as Pockmarked Grandmother’s Beancurd Seasoning rather than chile-bean paste. The ingredients list broad beans (not soy), chili, rapeseed oil, msg, then ginger and garlic. I’m assuming the addition of the last two ingredients is the difference between this and regular chile bean paste?

The first thing I made was mapo tofu (last night). Tonight I made dry fried green beans and a fish fragrant dish with fried leftover tofu and bok choy. Delicious. This is such an amazing cookbook.

I write a food blog, and will almost certainly document about some of the delicious Sichuan dishes I plan on cooking. I hope you will take a look. Thanks again.

Graham Booth
6 May 2010

Hi all,

Well finally, as promised, I managed to scan the document I got hold of at the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine in Chengdu, which provides translations of a great many Sichuanese dishes and cooking styles. At 43 pages it’s quite extensive!

The official title is: “English, Japanese and Korean Translation of Sichuan Famous Food and Famous Snack”. I hope this can be of use to non-Chinese speaking visitors to Sichuan when trying to order regional specialities. Would be interested to hear your comments as well Fuchsia. I’d be particularly curious to know who produced the document in the first place. Perhaps with some Chinese-search-engine skills an original version of the document could be unearthed online?

Anyhow, here is the link:



6 May 2010

Thanks very much Graham!

14 July 2010

To my taste, the 3rd (Chuan Lao Hui Pixian Douban) is superb in contrast to the 2nd (the widely available Lee Kum Kee), which I find so over-salty that it’s unusable in the quantities suggested in Fuchsia’s recipes, and also lacks depth of flavour and colour. I have seen the 1st on my travels and was a fool not to buy it; when I returned a few weeks later, the store (in Manchester) had sold out.

John Thompson
17 August 2010

Hi Fuchsia and everyone else …..

I did a Google on how to make Doubanjiang and this page was on of the results returned…

Basically I see that the same question has been asked by others here, specifically Brian, who asked for recipes for Chili paste. There are countless recipes for a huge variety of chili pastes on the ‘net, ofcourse, but precious little that reproduce commercial Doubanjiang…

I live in a remote community in Canada’s Arctic and obtaining specialty food products can be difficult and expensive. I typically ‘go south’ about once a year and try to stock up on ingredients such as doubanjiang (usually the Lee Kum Kee brand) but I have been out for months now and and really need some…

I followed Fuchsia’s ‘Land of Plenty’ recipe for Red cooked beef with White Radish many years ago and I regularly cook it still. When I do cook it now, though, I employ plenty of my own personal modifications but the essential of this dish is the ‘doubanjiang’ taste. Regular old Duolajiao, which I make on a frequent basis (see Fuchsia’s ‘Revolutionary Cookbook), just doesn’t fill the bill here, nor do any other chili pastes… Thus I have recently been reduced to trying to synthesize it myself….

Ultimately, what I did was to blend roughly pureed fresh red chili with a light Japanese Miso and a little some garlic paste, then cook the result in Red Oil in the same manner as one might an Indian Wet Masala…

Here is a picture:

When I started cooking the paste and smelled the initial aroma I knew I had done something right. After the cooking process and the product was cooled, the familiar Doubanjiang aroma was very much muted. Initial tastes are promising but I haven’t used the paste in a dish yet as I want to let the tastes settle. If anyone wants to me to follow up on the experment let me know… I also have a few other experiments I want to try in the same vein…

Oh, BTW Fuchsia… I have now reviewed all three of your great books on Amazon.

Michael Zapf
24 September 2010

@Michael Zehrer, hope you read this.
On how to get broad bean paste in Europe, and assuming you are German:
I get a “Pixian Broad Bean Paste” by “Sichuan Province Dandan Condiment Ltd.” from my local Chinese retailer here, and it has a sticker with the name of its importer which is “Rising Sun International Trade and Travel GmbH” in Frankfurt am Main, Germany:

Monster Munch
23 October 2010

I have been on a hunt for Pixian Chili Bean Paste for a while in London. Gerally the Lee Kum Kee one is all I can find but I found one made from fava beans (broad beans) today so am going to try that. I found it in the little store opposite Boazi Inn away from those on Gerard Street.

John Weagle
31 October 2010

John Thompson et al

I live in rather remote Nova Scotia. Until a year or so ago the only chili bean paste available was LKK which is, frankly, quite awful. In my city there are now so many brands available – no doubt sparked by Fuchsia’s books – that one has to buy every one to test them. Obviously if they don’t contain broad beans, flour, chilis and salt or they contain other ingredients I don’t bother with them. I am down to two brands as Dan Dan is not to be found here.

The first is untranslatable by me but they have a site – it does not list chilis as an ingedient but they are obviosuly there. I use it only in tiny amounts to add extra zip and to work my way through the bottle (I will not re-purchase this one). It smells good but doesn’t have enough character and is overly salty.

My favourite to date is again untranslatable but they can be found at It seems to have alot of character but then I can’t really compare it with the best never having had the good luck to find or taste the ultimate. This one comes in a squarish plastic bag, wrapped in brown paper and tied tightly with jute twine. It certainly builds up a wonderful array of aromatics as it is being fried. I wonder if anyone has compared it with Dan Dan’s chili bean paste?

Fuchsia, can you give us some of the precise characteristics we should look for and smell / taste in a great chilk bean paste?

In 2009 we were in London on a hunt for Sichuan chili peppers. We walked for hours through Chinatown and finally found them at 28-29 Newport Court WC2H 7JS (02074949222) and whose card says “Supermarket”! Sadly the seeds from these did not sprout so they must have been very old. When we got home I walked into a Chinese grocer just down the street – they cater to college students so I had always avoided it – low and behold there were stacks of Sichuan Chilis. The seeds sprouted successfully. Last August a fellow in North Carolina sent me some seeds. Of note he says “when the seeds sprout, if the cotyledons are green they are the Sichuan chilis, if they are pruple they are hybrids and you may want to destroy those ones. You should get both”. I should mention at the same London shop I bought Chuan Lao Hui Pixian Douban in that strange jar Fuchsia shows (above); I have to agree it had very little character.

John T. – my favourite CBP also comes in small tinfoil envelopes. I can send you some if you send me your email. I can just imagine your desperation up there in the Arctic!

Now my quest is better Sichuan peppercorns. A local chef brought some back from Chengdu last spring, they left your tongue tip/cheeks/lips feeling as if you had your finger in a light socket. So I know what I want, I just don’t know a fine brand that I try to find.

Better sign off as I find myself dipping chips (aka crisps) in the chili bean sauce by my side!


John Thompson
1 November 2010

John Weagle (but not limited to…)

My e-mail is:

that was a super kind offer but I have been able to obtain LKK here in Iqaluit not long ago and I will be going to Ottawa either just before the December holidays or else just afterwards. Do you know Ottawa at all? There are a good few blocks out on Somerset st. West with decent Asian groceries and restaurants. I’m going to check out what I can find there and will post the results here if anyone wants.


John Weagle
2 November 2010

John – I’d love to hear what you find in Ottawa. Keep us posted and get the address if you spot any from Dan Dan!


John Weagle
7 November 2010

Is the Sichuan Dandan Condiment Ltd. the same as the Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co Ltd? I found other products by the former at a local Chinese grocer. This leads me to believe the owner may by able to bring in the chili bean paste that Fuchsia recommends IF it is the correct company.

Also does anyone have experience with this company – Zhao Feng He- and their paste? Here’s the article:

Apparently they have a top of the line 7-8 year old brand but I can’t decipher which it is.


12 November 2010

So I live in Hawaii and buy Pixian Douban in pouches from a local asian grocery. There are three different kinds a regular one in a red pouch, another one in a white pouch that has oil added, and a supreme grade. They all list chilies, broadbeans, and salt as the only ingredients except the white one which has oil. It is very tasty, I like it better than LKK. I was surprised at how large the chili pieces were and some large broadbeans as well. Haven’t opened the supreme grade yet maybe it is finer. The manufacturer is listed as being in Chengdu. I think the exporter is Green Foods or something. Does anyone else have experience with this?

John Weagle
16 November 2010

Brad – I too was surprised at the large pieces of chili and the whole broadbeans. Are we meant to crush these when stir-frying? I even contemplated pureeing a batch to see if I could extract more flavour.

Be great if you take a shot of the supreme grade packaging.

Their site was down last time I tried.


16 November 2010

Brad and John
Actually the paste is made from whole split broad beans and whole chillies, which partially distintegrate as they ferment. When I was at the Sichuan cooking school, the bean paste we used was extremely chunky – so one of the basic kitchen tasks was to fine-chop it with a cleaver, to make it into a puree. It’s still often sold that way in Sichuanese markets, although I think the versions you buy in sachets, especially in supermarkets, will be pre-chopped. So yes, if you buy the chunky sort, you do need to mince it before use – with larger quantities, you might use a food-processor. If you’re just chopping enough for one mapo doufu or something, a cleaver is fine.

27 November 2010

Fuchsia- Thank you for the response I have been using the chili bean paste without out chopping and the flavor seems fine but sometimes there are whole peppers in my ma po.
John- I was not aware they had a site I have tried searching for Green Foods online but either there isn’t a website in English or I have the wrong name. What site are you referring to?

John Weagle
29 November 2010

Brad – As mentioned earlier It is back up but is still down.


Joshua Jackman
5 December 2010

Hello Ms Dunlop
I love your Books, Land of plenty inspired me to spend 6 months as a prep cook in a sichuan restaurant here in eastern Washington (spokane). We have two asian markets in town one primarily vietnamese and thai, the other korean. It has been exceedingly difficult to get sichuan ingredients here in spokane. The resturant can get things shipped from Seattle, but for my home cooking needs I am generally out of luck. Do you know of any online sources to get the good stuff? I would love to get my hands on some Pixian Chili paste, facing heaven chilies, dried salted chilies. the orientalpantry, and thecmccompany no longer have websites. and the pac rim site only has LKK paste. Do you have an updated online source list?

Thank you

2 January 2011

Hi Fuschia,
I have been making recipes from your sichuan cookery book, and have been using Chuan Lao Hui Pixian Douban. I have just moved in with my brother, who unfortunately reacts badly to wheat – last time he had too much skin started peeling off inside his mouth, not much fun. I really want to cook some of the recipes for him, but with the large volumes of paste needed in some recipes, I am reluctant to do so. I notice that you say wheat is often part of the recipe – do you know of any brands that are fairly authentic but don’t have wheat?


4 January 2011

Last year in Wing Yip, I managed to find a brand of Pi Xian Dou Ban that’s wrapped in old-fashioned brown paper and string, with a red paper diamond in the middle! I was in heaven! Bought two massive packs. It was certainly better than Chuan Lao Hui’s (my Wing Yip used to only store Chuan Lao Hui other than Amoy or Lee Kum Kee).Not sure if I would be able to get more, though. A friend just gave me a few packs of Pi Xian Dou Ban from Sichuan, which would keep me going for a while…

5 January 2011

Hi Wendy
I’m afraid I don’t know specifically of any wheat-free brands – the above post was simply based on those available in London’s Chinatown. I suggest that you just survey your local Chinese groceries. The other thing worth mentioning is that the quantities of wheat involved will be tiny, since the main ingredients are chillies and beans – perhaps you can ask how sensitive your brother is to it? It may be that the minute amounts involved won’t be a problem (would the fact that the wheat is fermented make it more tolerable, anyway?).
Good luck anyway, I hope you find a solution!

2 February 2011

This blog has a few posts on how to make Sichuan chili bean paste at home: Google translate seems to do a decent job.

By the way, so far I have only been able to find the Lee Kum Kee brand here in Copenhagen.

5 February 2011

Peter – I’d be interested to see this article as I am just about to sow some Facing Heaven Chili seeds. Fuchsia says they paste is made with another type of chili which I can find no reference to anywhere. Maybe the Facing Heavens would work just as well. However your link is faulty when I click on it. Could you re-port.


7 February 2011

John, the site seems to be down, the link is as it should be. But a bit of googling reveals that the same articles can be found here:

and here:

Warning: I do not read chinese, and I have no idea whether these instructions are precise enough to be useful, but it looks interesting.

7 February 2011

Thanks Peter. I will see if I can have a friend translate it and possibly post.


8 February 2011

Hi Joshua Jackman,

I bought Pixian Douban made by Sichuan Pixian Douban Co. Ltd. at “99 Ranch Market” in Kent-Washington.
Here is the address:
18230 E. Valley Highway #100, Kent,WA 98032

12 February 2011

Tony – The Pixian Doubanjiang flavour is very good but it seems to be overly salty. I have to eliminate any call for salt in recipes when I use it.

Have you found also?


21 February 2011

Brad in Hawaii… in which Asian market are you able to buy Pixian Douban?

26 February 2011

Hi All, i’m having great difficulty finding sweet bean paste – are there any alternatives that can be used, or perhaps, are there any pictures of what i should be looking for?

4 March 2011


Glad you brought that up. What is the difference between sweet bean paste and sweet wheaten paste? I think hoisin is a sub for one of them but I’m not certain. Maybe Fuchsia willjump in.


29 March 2011

Here in Stockholm, Sweden, there is a shop called Huaxia that stocks almost exclusively Chinese food. They regularly stock a chili bean paste from “Sichuan Pixian Douban Co., Ltd”.

Sometimes they also have garlic stems in stock. :-)
Actually, I made Hui Guo Rou today, using Suan Tai. *yummy*


12 August 2011

Dan Dan Brand can be found at 99 ranch markets in California, Nevada and Texas.

2 September 2011

Dan dan is OK, Qiao Niang Fang is also OK, but the real, original one which has been around since Kangxi is called 鵑城牌 (Juan Cheng Pai). I can find it at least in 金門超市 near Boston, I am surprised if Ranch 99 does not carry it.

Note the difference between those that have 紅油 (chilli oil) and those which don’t, for the ones that don’t you have to add your own to the recipe.

20 September 2011

Hi Fuchsia
What about black bean sauce Laoganma?
I think there’s the wrong bean inside?
Couldn’t find another one and from Lee Kum Kee they had everything else expect of the chili bean sauce.
Thanks Marko

20 September 2011

Hi Marko
No, laoganma, though useful and delicious, is not the same as Sichuan chilli bean paste – it’s made with fermented soybeans and chilli oil rather than broad beans and pickled chillies.
The Lee Kum Kee one is normally easy to find – you must just have been unlucky that day.

25 November 2011

One thing I’ve noticed is that the doubanjiang packaged in flat pouches seems to be more likely to be free of preservatives and added flavor enhancers. Perhaps it’s because people tend to open jars and reuse them for a long period of time. In the stores near me, the pouches aren’t always kept in the same place as the jars, so just one thing to keep in mind when you’re looking for it in a Chinese market.

Lubo vom Netz
29 November 2011

Hey Fuchsia,

after reading all posts, I wonder if posting a recipe for homemade doubanjiang is still on your agenda.
As some are looking for wheat free (I guess gluten is the problem) bean paste, other live quite isolated from Chinese supply and I just like cooking from scratch.
So, my plan was to start by growing broad beans and chili peppers, what I have accomplished this year while waiting for your recipe.
Please help a German guy how lives only on his own grown food to expand his cuisine.

Thanks Lubo

Pete Clemmer
1 December 2011

Hi everyone who also is obsessed with Sichuan cuisine and chili bean paste :)
Here’s what I’m wondering: is there a MILDER version of this stuff out there? I love the flavor; the heat is just a little high for me to use as much as I’d like to. If there isn’t a mild version I think I might try to make one using mild chilies (if i can get my buddy from hong kong to translate some of the posted paste recipes/if Fuscia can find one she’s happy with). Thanks and best wishes to everyone :)

Jack Guard
11 December 2011

My problem is that I do NOT TRUST any products made in China…Period—as I worked as a journalist/teacher/embassy dude there for several years. All of the doubanjiangs I purchase in American stores have weird “chemical” taste which I find distastful and suspicious. I’m to the point where I will take a trip to Sichuan and learn how to make it for myself as I can trust myself on most days…BTW Fuchsia you ROCK!! :*

22 January 2012

There is a very good place located in Boston to shop chili bean sauces online:, which has a category of doubanjiang, containing about 30 doubanjiang. This site has three major brands: Dandan, Juancheng and Chuanxiangmei. In genral, Juancheng is a little bit drier, but all three brands have no big difference if you are not Sichuanese. If you want to be “green”, there are a few items in pouches. If you do not like spicy, Pixian should not be your choice.

28 January 2012

Today I went to New Cam Man & HK market to see if I can find some of these chili bean pastes. I obviously found the Lee Kum Kee stuff, but I agree with you all in the idea that I do not want all the chemicals and preservatives. I didn’t exactly find what I was looking for (what Fushiaa describes above), but I did find this “Youki Shisen Toban Jan” at HK mart. I bought it. The ingredients are chili, broad beans, and salt (a surprisingly low amount of salt.) I snatched it right up as it sounded and looked pretty close to what you described without the wheat flour I suppose. This looks like a korean product. My question is, will this give me the great hot pot, mapo tofu, dan dan noodle results? Thanks in advance to anyone who can answer this for me. Fushia, you’re amazing. Visiting Chengdu in the spring. Can’t wait!

15 May 2012

Doubanjiang is a type of bean sauce. If use for hot pot, the soup base will be pretty thick, stocky. I only use Doubanjiang for sir-fry, while use chili oil for cold disk. When stir-fry, Doubanjiang need to stir with the hot oil first, and I like the final finish has no the original doubanjiang. This dandan brand package has no chemicals and preservatives:

6 June 2012

I went shopping a week or so ago in the Chinatown in Chicago. Stopped
at two different stores and was able to find the following six
packages–not sure if the last counts as dou ban jian. All except
number 3 appear to be made in Chengdu.
1. “Pixian Broad Bean Paste,” Dandan Condiment Co., Ltd.
2. “Pi Xian Dou Ban,” Sichuan Gao Fu Ji Food Co., Ltd.
3. “Sichuan Broad-Bean Sauce,” Ah Hung (doesn’t specify a city of
manufacture but appears to be made in Guangdong)
4. “Pi Xian Broad Bean Sauce,” Chengdu Lion Pavilion Food Co., Ltd.
5. “Pixian Broad Bean Sauce,” Spicy King
(And, not certain that it is dou ban jiang)
6. “Pixian Seasoned Bean,” Spicy King

My dilemma is this: I’ve never sat down to taste dou ban jian so I’m
not entirely certain what the best quality would taste like. So let
me ask the obvious, if probably impossible, question: what
characteristics am I looking for? What nuances do I value more

My concern is this: I might prefer one because I find it sweeter than
another version, only to learn that it is supposed to be salty and my
preferred version is too sweet.

Can anyone help? Many thanks in advance.

9 June 2012

To supplement my post immediately above: went shopping again to pick up some odds and ends that I neglected to get the first time around and found yet one more Pixian dou ban jian. There is minimal English on the package but the ingredients clearly state broad beans. The brand appears to be Qiao Niang Fang and the distributor (?) is Chengdu Chuanxiangmeifood Co., Ltd.

13 June 2012

Could someone describe how best to store chili bean paste that comes in a pouch? I’m planning on putting it in a sterile jar, but should it be refrigerated? How long will it keep? Thank you!

27 June 2012

Dear Fuchsia,
While living in Southern China and working for a Hunan ren I Regularly ate in Hunanese restaurants. One of the regular highlights of these episodes was stir-fried smoked tofu (not least as it is one of the few firms of tofu that I genuinely enjoy). The curd was tougher- almost rubbery and the same golden colour as creme caramel. Thanks to SF&SP I am gathering the confidence to add more of the dishes that I miss the most to my repertoire. I was hoping you could inform me where to buy smoked tofu or what type of virgin tofu I should begin with if I were to smoke my own and what aromatics I should use.

27 June 2012

Hi Rollo
I buy my smoked tofu from a wholefoods shop. It is sold, plastic-wrapped, in blocks that are exactly as you describe: a dark caramel on the outside, and with a dense, chewy texture that reminds me slightly of Edam cheese. I think it’s produced in Germany. If you want to smoke your own, I suggest you use firm, pressed tofu: if you can’t buy it, buy very fresh normal tofu, wrap it in clean muslin and press it with extremely heavy weights, or even a vise, to remove as much water as possible. Then smoke it over wood embers. I remember seeing it made this way in rural Hunan. I’m not sure what wood they used, but I think it must have been hot-smoking as the tofu was a couple of feet above the embers and covered with a lid, so the temperature would have been fairly high. Good luck!

20 August 2012

Hi – I’m afraid I’m another one looking for the elusive recipe for making chilli bean sauce at home. I’m a coeliac so none of the shop-bought recipes are an option. I have only been cooking chinese style-food for 3 months since I realised I can make my own sauces from scratch but this is the only one that eludes me!

I have broad beans and chillies and did wonder about partially drying them in the oven (to acheive a sort of sun-dried flavour, based on the original stuff being left outside) then bix together with some oil. I wonder about adding yeast to kick start the fermentation process? Would ultimately have to heat it to “kill” it again and give it a decent shelf life, but I’m willing to experiment and report back.

Anyone got any tips or suggestions? Has Lubo got to it before me?

Many thanks

5 September 2012

Hi all, just a quick update for any other Londoners out there. The See Woo Hing Supermarket on Lisle Street in London Chinatown were stocking the Sichuan Dan Dan Seasoning Co Ltd brand last year but I have not been able to find it for a while now (kicking myself that I didn’t stockpile whilst I had the chance)! Asked about it today and got the impression that it is not a reliable source. I guess think yourself lucky if you do manage to find it, and buy a few pots… but leave some for me!

8 September 2012

Thanks Tess,
I was also buying the Dan Dan sauce from the See Woo Hung in Lisle Street and then noticed it vanish. Did notice something about it first. When I originally started buying it a few years ago the little wicker pot would have 2 plastic bags of sauce in it. The flavour and intensity was excellent. Thick and pasty, good deep colour and lots of chunks of broad/fava beans. Then the contents changed so you only got one bag, the paste was less thick and didn’t have such a good textur or flavour – still good compared to the salty Lee Kum Kee version though! A year or so later… Gone! Haven’t seen it again.

21 September 2012

When last in London I did find a few things in the See Woo Hung supermarket, but I found the Sichaun ya cai that Fuchsia recommends in another supermarket in Chinatown. It was upstairs.
As for the Dan dan chilli bean, I haven’t seen it anywhere. I even asked my brother (now in Hong Kong) to ask his Chinese colleagues and no one recognised the picture except a woman from Sichuan. Couldn’t get it in HK at all.
How about persuading them to sell it at Bar Shu??? I noticed that Fuchsia’s books are available, so couldn’t they make room for one or two of the more difficult ingredients?

25 September 2012

Have you tried the “Super Lucky” brand? It’s the only one I can find in Boston area markets that’s made with broad beans (instead of soybeans), so I’d like to know how it compares. (They also make a “Szchuan chili sauce” that I use far too much of.)

Chris Kolbu
5 October 2012

I studied at SHIC(四川烹饪高等专科学校). The best doubanjiang I’ve come across is from the above-mentioned village 郫县 (Pixian).

For those of you serious about DBJ, I recommend using taobao (through a so-called taobao agent). Taobao is the Chinese eBay, and has everything. However, it’s nigh-on impossible for the casual foreigner in China to use.

With an agent, they will buy the items and ship it to you abroad, for a relatively modest commission.

But it means you can pick up this:

Which is a top level 3-year fermented douban from Pixian. At 78元 for 500g, it’s a steal. It’s dark, dense and imparts so much doubaniness that you can get away with using much less, and consequently much less salt. It’s so deep and rich I’ve taken to adding it to everything that needs a resonant bass note of umami.

It seriously smells as fermented as an imperial stout, but tastes like the best douban you’ve ever had.

Oh! And while you’re on Taobao, pick up some Sichuan pepper from 汉源 (Hanyuan).

When I left China, I brought several kilo of it with me.

6 November 2012


Taobao and that chili bean paste sound very tempting. Do they also sell fresher dried facing heaven chilis, fresh than the ones to be found in packages here in Nova Scotia? Also looking for seeds of them. Oh and Sichuan pickled chilis and……Certainly the site is unnavigatible.

Mr Taster
12 November 2012

Hi All,

I’m in Los Angeles. Much of our San Gabriel Valley (east of Downtown LA) is a vast Chinese suburb. The communities of Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Alhambra, Rosemead, Temple City, and places further east like Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights are essentially Chinese suburban towns in America.

Even so, I’ve had a pickle of a time finding real Douban from Pixian County. We of course have the ubiquitous Lee Kum Kee brand, as well as several Los Angeles and Taiwan produced stuff. I finally tracked some down thanks to the help of the good people of the Los Angeles Chowhound board.

Hong Kong Supermarket on San Gabriel Blvd and Las Tunas stocks the Juan Cheng brand, which comes is a pouch and is the deep red/purplish color. A 227 gram package costs $1.50.

And here’s a video of the factory:

I just made a mapo tofu with it. I sauteed it to blood the flavor and the house exploded in an otherworldly fragrance. Spectacular stuff.

Mr Taster

21 November 2012

Thanks, Mr. Taster, for posting the links/info.

I hope to find the Juan Cheng brand PiXian DouBanJiang closer to SF Bay Area (near 94538).

Will this product be good for Fish-Fragrant Shredded Pork (YuXiangRouSi)?

I’m also on the lookout for
Lan Chi brand Chili Paste with Garlic …

Any leads would be much appreciated.


Mr Taster
26 November 2012

Well, I’m absolutely no expert on Sichuanese cooking– you’d need to ask Ms. Dunlop about that. However, I have been to Sichuan (was in China for 2 months and my wife is Taiwanese, and I speak and read a smattering of Mandarin). I do have my favorite typical dishes that are available here… Yunnan Garden on Las Tunas in San Gabriel, despite the name, has extremely good Sichuanese food with a cold appetizer bar overloaded with selections during peak mealtimes. My favorite main dishes are pretty standard– wontons in chili oil, water boiled fish, chili oil fried chicken, etc. which I like to balance out with cooler dishes from the appetizer bar like celery in sesame oil, or shredded seaweed etc.

I borrowed Fuchsia’s “Land Of Plenty” book from the LA Library and made her version of mapo tofu last night– after finally tracking down the dried fermented black beans– very hard to find, but finally tracked this down also at HK Supermarket mentioned above- lots of jarred/prepared versions, but they did have one version of the dried beans- Pearl River Bridge brand. Good lord– what a fantastic dish, with the Pixian douban and douchi infusing the peanut oil with their heady aroma. Great contract with the sweetness of the leeks loaded up into the dish at the end.

Alexander Miles
3 December 2012

There’s a slightly vague recipe for making your own chili bean paste at I haven’t tried it but would love to hear details from anyone who does.

Every year my brother brings me sichuan peppercorns from China for Christmas. Infinitely better than anything I can buy here. The first job of the year is to make as much chill / peppercorn oil as I can. The flavour lasts much longer in oil than it does in the peppercorns; enough to keep hotpots suitably lethal until the next Christmas.

9 December 2012

John Weagle

As I go to Nova Scotia every summer, I would be very curious for more information on both the Chinese grocer (I assume in Halifax) that sells the Sichuan chiles and the restaurant your chef friend who brought back the peppercorns from Chengdu cooks at, assuming it is a Sichuan restaurant. Thanks!


12 February 2013

In Manhattan I found Dan Dan Condiment Co. Ltd’s version at Hong Kong Supermarket (Hester & Elizabeth in Chinatown). It lacks the attractive straw container, instead in a plastic bin featuring a red & off-white label with a young Asian woman giving a ‘thumbs up’.
(There’s no outwardly visible English text, and I identified it by looking at the contents.)

It does contain MSG, which I’m not opposed to, but does differ from Fuchsia’s description above.

The Flushing location supposedly carries this brand as well, but I have not verified this.


21 March 2013 sells the bean paste in the packaging that Taylor describes above. They also sell a host of other Sichuan ingredients. I just received a large box from their online mail order last night! Looking forward to trying them (I’m not affiliated with the website whatsoever)

30 April 2013

The best I was able to find

sichuan pixian douban co ltd three time honored brand

ingredients: salt, chillies, beans, flour, potassium sorbate.

homemade douban (start a 34min)

Another visit of a Douban factory:

9 July 2013

Jeff – Sorry for the extreme delay.

The Sichuan restaurant is Jincheng at 1569 Dresden Row in Hfx. The cook is Zou.

The most reliable source of FHChilis is at the corner of South Street & Henry Street. You can also pre-order them from and pick them up at the Brewery Market on Saturday morning; these are expensive but incredibly fresh, I get them for the sproutable seeds to grow. You can also order them from

All the stores seem to carry the best chili bean paste – paper wrapper and tied with string though careful as there is an inferior imposter about too and packaging is close.

12 July 2013

hey all – i think i saw it mentioned way above but in the states has just about everything you need to make many of the recipes in fuchsia’s amazing books. big selection of pixian chili bean pastes. even have ya cai which is even tougher to find in the states!

11 August 2013


Thank you! I am psyched to eat at Jincheng the next time I’m in Halifax and to cook Sichuan the next time I’m in Cape Breton. Thanks!


dietmar petschl
11 January 2014

I am a bit confused about which spicy bean sauce to use for Fuchsias mapo tofu and shui zhu niu rou . I understand “pixian” is the one to go for. I have been using har har pickle hot bean sauce (this one: until now because it’s relatively easy to get here in austria. now I’m not sure – is this the same type of sauce, or something completely different? and if it is somehting else altogether, what should I use it for?
I would be most grateful for any clarification!
many thanks,

dietmar petschl
11 January 2014
13 May 2014

Still curious if someone has found a wheat-free alternative… Lao Gan Ma is the closest we’ve gotten, but its not the “real thing” – tastes pretty good but needs adjustment.

We don’t have a choice in my household though…

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