Seasonings made from fermented soybeans and used in many Asian cuisines including Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cookery. Bean sauces and pastes can range from thin to thick; some are smooth but others contain whole beans. These intensely flavored mixtures are used to enhance the flavor of many dishes. Black bean sauce is a thin, salty, full-flavored mixture made with mashed fermented black beans and flavored with garlic and, sometimes, star anise. Hot black bean sauce has a medium consistency and is a combination of black beans, chiles, garlic, sesame oil and sugar. Brown bean sauce is thick and made with fermented yellow soybeans. Sweet bean paste is made with fermented soybeans and sugar, is quite thick, and has a sweet-salty flavor. Bean sauces and pastes can be found in Asian markets. They should be stored in a non-metallic, tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a year. See also chile bean paste; hoisin sauce; miso.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.