Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Korean black bean paste

This was something unexpected.  Wow, but so good.  One black bean paste must be much like another, I'll bet you are thinking, stifling a yawn, as I was, when I opened this jar.  Chinese, Korean, it's all the same.

But no.  Like the Korean red pepper paste, like Korean red pepper flakes, there is no substitution.

I can prove it.

First, here are the ingredients:

And here's the thing itself, black as the mouth of hell.  And I have to ask, with the above ingredients, why is it black?  Was it made with black soybeans?  I guess that's a silly question, considering that soy sauce is also black, which is essentially what this is, only in paste form, and with a totally different taste.  Why is soy sauce black?

I don't eat very many black foods.  Chinese black bean paste is sort of brown when you get right down to cooking with it, but this stuff is totally uncompromising.  It's black.  A tablespoon will make your whole dish black.  Well, we're keeping an open mind.  What does it taste like?  A very little like miso, a very very little like Chinese black bean paste.  It's all itself...

The dish to make with this is, apparently, Black bean noodles (jjajangmyeon).  So I made it.  One recipe for it is over here.  This is what I did, based on (veganized from) a recipe from Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee's Quick and Easy Korean Cooking.  Start with frying a little onion, garlic, and ginger in quite a bit of oil.  Add some seitan (I was using some chopped char siu seitan from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine, and from my freezer, which was excellent in this dish).  Stir fry for a few minutes, then add zucchini or, ahem, in this case chopped opo squash (which I thought I had blogged about already but maybe not?):

Now the magic begins.  Add a little Korean black bean paste and stir:

It turns into this laquered, beautiful thing!  Stir fry for a few minutes, then add a mixture of water, sugar, and cornstarch:

By now I have lost all resistance and am tasting constantly.  You don't add salt, you don't add hot peppers, or any other spice, just the black bean sauce, and it's great.  Continue cooking until the squash is tender and the sauce has turned translucent (black).  Garnish with shredded cucumber:

So black!  So beautiful!  Served here with a daikon kimchi that is, with the possible exception of asafoetida, the stinkiest thing in my house right now, but I love it.  Yes, VeganMoFo 2010, I am so out of my cooking rut!


  1. Does the caramel make it so dark? I don't know, but resulting dish looks so mouth-wateringly good!

    Korean food, I'm finding through your posts and also Vegan in Seoul S. Korea is a bounty of deliciousness.

    It's an area, as are most Asian cuisines, that I feel completely unversed in...I am in awe of it. I really do have a goal of learning more about this delicious cuisine.

    Thanks as always for the inspiration, the information, and that amazing looking food!

  2. I'm loving all the Korean posts; it may be my favorite cuisine! This looks delicious and I'll definitely be trying it.

  3. I think the caramel color might have something to do with it being so black, but you're right about miso being dark, too, even without coloring. But not black.

  4. Looks delicious! I'm very curious about the taste and how it compares to Chinese black bean sauce. Thanks for the info. :-)

  5. where i can buy blackbean sauce

  6. I bought some fresh Korean wheat noodles to make this dish, but didn't have the Korean paste. I have Chinese fermented black beans. I rinsed the beans and made a paste using beef broth, but it is still very salty... tastes like it needs a little sugar. I guess I'm going to have to get the Korean paste if I want the right flavor...