Fermented black bean also known as Douchi is a condiment used for seasoning and it’s common among the Chinese. It is aromatic, pungent, earthy and salty.
The main use of the fermented beans is to enhance the flavours.
Don’t confuse its name fermented black beans for being made using black beans.
Fermented beans entail cooked soybeans that are fermented in the water that was used to cook it then sundried and preserved in salt and spices. This normally softens the beans while drying it out. Note that, the beans when dry are inedible due to its salty nature.
However, it assumes deep umami flavors and fermented aroma that will make your meal wonderous. If you have ever seen the fermented bean sauce you should know that douchi is its basic ingredient.
My grandma who is natively Chinese made me addicted to her Mapo tofu. Her secret ingredient she says is fermented beans. To date, my mom makes her own douchi even though douchi is now manufactured and sold in different stores.
She believes that the homemade one retains all the flavors. Now, you can either make it at home or buy it really doesn’t matter. Depending on how you like it some brands of douchi are saltier than others, while others have a smoky or cheesy smell.
Some people refer to douchi as touchi. It was traditionally made by fermenting soy beans in Aspergillus species. Its major role is to season your Chinese dishes. The douchi was first used in the 7th century. The food literature indicates the use of douchi during the Han dynasty.
Some scientists believe that it was used earlier than 206 BC. The touchi products were found in the western Hunan province. In the tombs where the Han dynasty artefacts were also left. The use of douchi further spread in other parts of Asia like Japan, Malaysia and Philippines.
The douchi was produced by either straining the fungal or bacteria. Currently, douchi is made by the normal and natural fermentation. Both methods of production don’t indicate the presence of soybeans although the word black has been associated with the possible presence of soybeans.
The common major ingredients used in the production of douchi include soybeans and salt. However, some seasonings contain ginger roots, orange peels or five spice powder.
Douchi could be salted or unsalted where the unsalted douchi was used for medicinal purposes according to Li shih chen.
HOW TO USE IT
The beans have a strong and nice flavour. A little bit of it goes a long way so always be careful not to overuse it as this may overpower other spices in your dish.
- You may use them directly in your dish
In this case, wash the beans thoroughly and dry them. Coarsely cut them and use to season your veggies, Tofu, pork, chicken, fish and seafood. Always remember to consider allowing it to integrate its flavour to your meal.
Some people may cut it coarsely or crush it with a spoon then mix it with minced garlic to evenly distribute its flavour before combining it with other ingredients.
- You may use it to make a sauce (black beans sauce/paste)
These sauces are readily available on Amazon, Chinese markets and other stores. The sauce is usually versatile and to work best, you should mix it with garlic. You can also make your own sauce version at home.
I know one method of making this sauce which includes adding fermented beans to spices like chilli garlic and ginger as you cook. Your aim is to make it a thick and pungent paste. Once you have the consistency you desire and have canned it, you may use it in almost every Chinese dish.
Some of the common dishes that use the fermented black beans include:
- Steamed fish dishes
- Mapo tofu
- Chinese pork with bitter lemon
- Zucchini fry among others
- Chinese Steamed Ribs with Tempeh
WHEN BUYING HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE BEST TYPE?
There are no different variations of the fermented beans so confusion is of the window. If you know how they look like then it’s easy to choose. Go for the best and recently packaged beans. They should only show the ingredients being soybeans or black soybeans and salt for best results.
Be observant of your fermented black beans names because it may mean different things in different cultures of the globe. The Japanese, for example, refer to it as natto. On the other hand, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Philippines may have the same ingredients that differ in flavour.
Before you decide to buy the condiment know what you will mostly use it for and if you need the Chinese fermented black beans you should know that they may also refer to it as Dau si in Cantonese. Master the spellings to avoid mistakes.
Observe the below characteristics though for fresher beans
- Are they sticking together somehow?
- Are they less wrinkled? If they are less wrinkled, they are fresh.
- What is its length? Is it about a cm?
- Is it soft when tasted but firm in texture?
- Does the main ingredient read soybeans regardless of light or black soybeans?
You may need additional spices when you need to make the fermented black bean sauce.
WHERE WILL YOU GET THE FERMENTED BEANS?
You will find the fermented black beans at any stocked Chinese store. Another place to find your douchi is in an Asian market anywhere around the globe. Look for them in plastic bags. However, there are those beans that are stored in jars.
They aren’t intensely flavoured but you may use them too. If you live nowhere close to the markets go to online stores and source the condiment or sauce.
TOP 6 BEST FERMENTED BLACK BEANS
1. YANG JIANG PRESERVED BLACK BEANS DOUCHI
This is the best type of douchi according to the best Chinese cuisine chefs. The black beans that make the condiment are grown in Yangjiang area of China. For those who enjoy Sichuan dishes, this is a must-have condiment for perfect results.
It’s good when you are cooking pork dishes. The douchi here is extra salty as expected. Therefore, when using it, consider thoroughly rinsing the beans to get rid of the extra salt. Soak it for a few minutes to soften the beans then rinse with clean water.
When it comes to storage, consider storing in a sealable container then keep in a cool, dry and dark place. This is not a product for those who are allergic to soybeans.
2. Chinese Douchi
While the main ingredient here is soybeans and salt it also has other ingredients like orange peel, ginger soy sauce and wheat. This means that those who are allergic to gluten shouldn’t use this. It’s best used to make a paste that’s meant for the marination of your fish and meat grills.
You can also use it to make the sauce which is a ready condiment. There are those who use it in the company of lee kum kee chilli sauce for greater results. It makes the best homemade sauce that assumes the zing, umami flavors and awesomeness.
The flavour is well balanced between sweet, bitter and salty smooth. Once you open it, consider storing it in a tightly sealed container for future use. From your favorite Thai dishes to Korean noodle dishes to Chinese vegetables this is the condiment you need to make all the difference.
3. Pearl River Bridge Yang Jiang Flavor Preserved Beans
The fermented beans are selected from the Yangjiang area. Moreover, the beans are sundried and kept according to the requirements of the Han dynasty. It has a shelf life of about 6 months when properly stored.
For best results, the company uses the old natural method of producing fermented beans.
When you need that outstanding crisp texture, delicious taste, intense flavour and nutritional richness this is your on the go-to choice. Since it’s made by the sauces and condiments champions in China. This makes it a trustworthy product.
From your beef with black beans to steamed ribs, you will lick your fingers endlessly when you use these beans.
4. Koon chun Party Time
Here is another best kind of fermented beans. However, before we go further note that it is made using a soy sauce that contains wheat. When you are ready to use it, you should rinse the excess salt from it then finely chop it before adding to your meat and fish.
It would never let you down when you need to make a sauce. The black beans make the fermented black beans sauce wonderous. For further flavour, it has ginger and wheat flour. This like the preceding beans, when stored properly, will stay longer.
From your steamed food to your stir-fries it makes your meal tangy while adding the umami flairs.
5. Fermented Black Beans (12 ounces)
It’s made traditionally to reduce the tendency to contain GMO. The ingredients that make it are only ginger, salt and soybeans. These beans retain the fresh texture for longer than others, especially when properly stored.
When you are ready to use it to make your authentic Chinese dish chop them then mix with garlic before combining it with other ingredients. For that extra flavour, go ahead and lightly press it. It works best for almost every meal.
Reduce the amount of salt you use to prepare your meal because of its salty nature. You could also soak it in water to drain off the excess salt.
With this product, you can rest assured that you will have your strong flavour. Moreover, when you need to make a mouth-watering sauce, this is your best beans to use.
6. KC Commerce Fermented Black Beans
This comes with a free wooden spoon for scooping the beans. The soy sauce used in its production contains wheat which means it isn’t suitable for those who are allergic to gluten.
For those who love Chinese cuisine, this condiment is your must-have. While there are those who say that douchi isn’t good for your stir-fries, this specific kind is best for stir-fries as it releases the needed flavors.
It’s best used to make a paste or sauce. All you need to do is soak it to soften then add it to your other ingredients. In a good way your fish, chicken and meat are never the same when you use this douchi.
ESSENTIAL COOKING TIPS
- Depending on the taste you are reaching for you may soaking the fermented beans for 1/2hour before use. Fermented beans are salty, therefore soaking is necessary to reduce the excess salt. Nevertheless, some people will choose a brand that has reduced salt instead of soaking.
- The common method of use is coarsely chopping or cutting it first before cooking.
- You may sprinkle the fermented beans over food before cooking, mash it and use as wet rub on meat or seafood, make it as a sauce, or when frying add on your oil before the frying process begins.
- Remember, they have a powerful flavour, therefore, you only use a small portion. To be precise, a tablespoon per recipe is fine.
- Don’t add a lot of salt to the meal whenever you use the fermented beans. Because the condiment itself is extra salty.
The sauce is distinctly flavoured that substituting it with any other sauce is hard. Never confuse the fact that fermented black beans aren’t the regular black beans. Neither are they black turtle beans that are from Central and South America. In fact, you can’t use them as substitutes.
Though not an ultimate cut off best substitute, you may use soy sauce or black bean sauce and sometimes even soybeans work perfectly.
HOW TO STORE
- The fermented beans like other beans and sauces can last up to a year if stored properly. If you made yours at home ensure you store it in a sealed container and place it in a refrigerator. Alternatively, store it in a sealable fridge bag and into the fridge.
- If you are buying your beans, keep them in a sealed container too. This will help the beans to avoid drying. Nonetheless, when you realize that your beans are beginning to dry up, add some neutral oil drops for them to regain the original texture.
- There are those who don’t bother refrigerating the beans. This is mostly the case when you bought the beans in a cardboard container. They prefer to fold the container in a way that retains the odour within beans.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE BLACK BEANS
The fermented black beans help to lower the blood sugar levels which makes it suitable for those with diabetes. The beans help in the formation of insulin and the stimulation of the same to fight the low blood sugar.
It works to reduce hypertension (blood pressure in the arteries going too high). The effects of high blood pressure are dire and may include chest pain and difficulty in breathing. The sodium in the fermented beans can fight hypertension.
It’s an antioxidant. The antioxidant feature of the fermented black beans will help you reduce stress and fatigue. It will act as your great anti-aging product as well.
The fibre content of the beans helps your body with digestion. It cleans your stomach by absorbing any other non-digestive item that would otherwise stick in your intestine.
The fermented black beans contain good bacteria that help to reduce the body fat. The beans contain protein and fibre and if the body contains no excess carbs and sugars it gets easy to reduce fat. However, for you to realise the benefits, use the fermented beans with limitation.
Here’s to a great immunity booster. It has good bacteria’s in your system to fight diseases. Since most diseases come from your gut they are normally dealt with at the gut level. This reduces the chances of getting ill.
Other benefits of using fermented black beans include:
Fermentation acts as a preservation method which means your food has a longer shelf life. In the earlier years before the existence of refrigerator fermentation was the best way to make sure your food stayed longer.
Fermented foods like the black beans although loved in the Asian community are not appreciated globally as they should. They are healthy, functional, therapeutic and yet the force of urbanization and civilization makes it hard to penetrate other markets.
You see even those who consume the fermented foods find them in stores or supermarkets but not making them at home. This means that the method of production is slowly getting altered.
This is the one way to maintain our traditional methods of cooking. Traditions practices give us a sense of belonging and there’s no better way to practice it than with the delicious meals.
With all the above said, you realize that you should start using the douchi to reap both the health benefits and flavors it adds to your meal. If you love to buy the ready prepped douchi then, in my opinion, go for yang jiang fermented beans.
They are the best because they feature soybeans from Yangjiang China.