Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Broad Beans in Fermented Broad Bean Paste (Doubanjiang)


I've found a latest obsession-- podding peas. It's the most therapeutic mindless fun one can have in the kitchen. Hold a fat green pod in between your fingers, squeeze it with just the right amount of pressure to make it gently pop open, and hold your breath as the inside is revealed: a row of smooth green pearls, or, a disappointing couple of lone under-formed ones? Celebrate/moan, and go on to the next one. And the next. And the next.

My roommate was getting a little worried, so just to change things up a little, I got broad beans at the farmer's market last Saturday. It might sound funny to most people, especially if you grew up here, but I've never had a fresh broad bean before.To be frank, I didn't really like it. It looked very promisingly like a paler, larger version of the pea, but had none of its sweetness. I've seen people shoving bags of them into their shopping baskets, so perhaps, its bitterness is an acquired taste, kind of like sashimi was to me at first, but right then, I sorely missed my peas.



I have, however, had (and love) broad bean in its fermented form, reborn as dou ban jiang, the powerful paste dubbed the soul of Sichuan cuisine. It's entirely reborn if you ask me, spicy, salty and wonderfully aromatic.  If I'm drawing a blank, it's the key ingredient in mapo tofu, in "zha jiang mien", in "fish fragrant eggplant", in "ants climbing the tree" (don't you just love all these translations), and all manners of southern chinese dishes. You can find it in most Asian grocery stores, where it's named hot bean paste or chilli bean paste.* I was inspired to marry the two together, some sort of warped romantic combination that allowed the broad bean to shine in its various forms.

DOUBANJIANG BROAD BEANS
Ingredients
1 bag of broad beans, in pods (about 2 large handfuls worth once podded)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 heaped tbsp of doubanjiang*
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp unrefined cane sugar
unrefined sea salt, to taste
1 tbsp groundnut oil/ fat for cooking (I use lard from happy pigs. I prefer saturated fats for high heat cooking.)

To finish,
dash of chinese black vinegar
chopped fresh coriander

Method
1. Pod the broad beans, then blanch in boiling water for 2-3 min. The skin, which can be tougher and leathery especially if the broad beans are the bigger ones, will slip off easily. If you have smaller tender ones, just do this anyway as it helps rid the bitter taste.
2. In a wok, heat up oil/fat. When hot, add the doubanjiang, frying for a few seconds to release its fragrance. Add the sliced shallots and continue to stir fry for half a min or so, before adding the broad beans.
3. Add the water along with salt and sugar, bring everything to a boil, and let simmer for a few minutes for the flavours to absorb. When sauce is almost dry, add a dash of chinese black vinegar, and check for seasoning.
4. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander, serve hot with plain rice as this dish packs a punch.

*A good one should only contain chillies, broad (fava) beans, salt, and flour. For Londoners, I get mine from Chinatown, the one that says "pixian dou ban" (Pixian being the county in Sichuan where the recipe originated). Get the one in a packet, the one in the jar form contain MSG and other unwelcome additives, same goes for the Lee Kum Kee one. 



The quick toss in the wok added just a bit of smokiness while keeping everything fresh, tender and crunchy. Most important of all, the bitterness of the broad bean mellows with cooking, so there's just a light hint of it remaining, not enough to make you cringe and stick your tongue out, but just enough to work against the intensity of the pungent dou ban jiang. A happy marriage. I might even get those broad beans over the peas again this Saturday.

43 comments:

  1. This is something interesting. Looks very appetising indeed!

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  2. I love broad beans and agree that it is somehow very therapeutic poding them! I always double de-pod them as I love the sweetness of the very inside bean.Thanks for the recipe Shu Han!

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    1. Ah, another broad bean lover.. I'm trying I'm trying.

      As in you peel off their skins? What i did was to blanch them first so i can slip them out of their skins easily, I agree I'm not a fan of the leathery skin on the outside myself!

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  3. I used to love broad beans as a child (but bought "older" and bigger, cooked in salted water and then eaten as a snack) and now I no longer care for them. Your seasoning sounds like one of those able to give complex flavours even to the blandest vegetable. I love it!
    I have been wondering why I cannot find the bean paste in my Vietnamese shop (they sell products for many Asian cuisines) and also whether I can substitute it with gochujang... What do you think? (I know the taste will be a bit different, but since I have never tasted the Chinese paste I have no idea how different).

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    1. I've said it before, but you are a weird kid sissi!

      I think you could, but it won't be the same dish. That said, I have sometimes substituted hot bean paste for gochujang heh. The korean jajangmyun and the chinese zhajiangmien are actually pretty much the same dish, one inspired by the other (probably the korean by the chinese). Both arespicy fermented bean pastes, but gochujang is made of soybean and has other sweeteners so the taste is kind of different, pungent in a different way. I think it'd taste good anyway though!

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    2. I take it as a complement ;-) Thank you for the advice! (I think I couldn't find it two days ago in my Asian shop... I think they have mainly Thai and Vietnamese products and they hardly speak any European language, but I will try to ask them next time.

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  4. What a lovely photo Shu Han and this looks yummy. I love broad beans any way they are cooked...fresh in risotto or with dill and garlic rice. Last night I cooked dried ones and we ate them with lemon juice and salt. They make delicious snack food that you just peel and pop in your mouth.

    I love podding peas and beans too...and always remember that seen in Pollyanna when she's podding peas in a lovely sunny garden...

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    1. Thanks for all the ideas debby!The dill and garlic rice sounds fab, I'll give that a go tomorrow.
      I haven't watched Pollyanna before, I want to now. She sounds like my kind of girl ;)

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  5. Whoops...."seen" ? That should say "scene"

    D

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  6. will try this when my broad beans are ready to pick (and if I can buy that paste!)
    I was at Borough on saturday morning - kept an eye out for you! My best friends from Singapore were visiting London, and we said we'd take them out for brunch - aaaagh, pressure - where do you take a Singaporean family for brunch when it's practically the national sport over there?! Answer = Roast at Borough, it was the perfect combination of slick, modern and old world London, with delicious ingredients. Happy days :-)

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    1. You have see woo in scotland right? You can find that paste there! It'll say Pixian Dou Ban, and is in a sealed plastic package.

      I don't work at borough! It actually isn't even a real farmer's market, more like a gourmet foodie market I would say. You can tell easily by the fact that they have so many world produce, french cheeses etc, yummy but definitely not local. I work at Pimlico farmer's market! Drop by some day (:

      Haha what pressure! Borough was a good choice! All Singaporeans love browsing and nibbling on food, the market itself would have been an eye-opener! And Roast is delicious. I've only been there once, can't really afford the place, it was actually a vday treat and it was lovely (:

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    2. Aaah Pimlico, nice (no idea why I thought you worked at borough!)

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  7. Hi Shuhan, I'm surprised you're not a fan of the fresh beans, though to be fair they're not everyone's "cup of tea" - if you have a food processor, shell/peel and boil them (or the other way around) and then blend them up with some tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Broad bean "hummus" is fantastic!!

    I've never heard of doubanjiang - I'll have to try and pick some up on my next trip into Chinatown here!

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    1. Hah you're one of those people I mentioned in the post then, the ones who dig the bitterness of broad beans. That hummus sounds like a fantastic idea though, I usually find any pulses, ground up, and made into hummus with spices added, hard to not like!

      Yes, do look out for it! It makes for a delicious sauce and flavouring for many many chinese dishes! It adds spice in a very special way, for me, it;s usually a toss-up between this or sambal belachan when I want a spicy stirfry. Just that the latter involves a lot more work...

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  8. Oh! I always thought this is Lima beans! LOL Great to know the real name! I've planted these beans in my veg patch & yes, they're really delicious! Will try this recipe once we harvest this beans! Looks so yummy & I can't wait to try it! YUM!

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    1. They do look really similar but are two different beans! I've yet to try fresh lima beans myself, only dried ones (I call them butter beans here), so curious to see how that tastes!

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  9. Shuhan, I think you've just married two of my favourite ingredients together...broad beans (yum!) with doubanjiang (yum! Yum!) .So simple, but I bet it tasted amazing right ? I must try to have a go at this sometime...

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    1. I'm not a fan of broad beans so for me the doubanjiang helped things alot! If you liek broad beans, you'd love this I think!

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    1. Would be a little bit spicy and pungent..

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  11. Yum:) Ants in a tree was one of my favorite dishes as a child. I had no idea it has bean paste in it, which explains why I have been unable to replicate it. Thanks for the lesson:)

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    1. Now you know the key ingredient, you can give it a go again! (:

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  12. I rarely have broad beans but the last time I had them they were lovely and not bitter at all, perhaps it was the way they were prepared. Either way, doubanjiang is such a great way to enjoy them!

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    1. I'm not sure, maybe I'm just very sensitive to the bitter taste?

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  13. Great flavor combos. Love the idea of finishing off with a dash of Chinese black vinegar.

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    1. I think the vinegar really helps lift the dish, it's the finishing touch for yu xiang qie zi too!

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  14. This looks so good and such a perfect Summer dish! Thanks for your comment on my post this week - you made me laugh...well, the bloggy designers never did get back to me, but the font bounced back. I do a lot of styling on my sight as well, but the header and fonts are from a design duo. Loving your photographs as of late Shu Han!

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    1. Haha glad it magically got sorted out (: Thanks emily!

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  15. Oh yum! I love doubanjiang. I also love fresh broad beans. But, sadly, the latter are really hard to find where I live. Beautiful pics!

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    1. Oh is it a very british vegetable then? I'm sure you can try this with a local podded vegetable!

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  16. Simple delicious looking dish. Love the pictures!

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  17. I love chilli bean paste after discovering it in a cooking class in China and I like how you've paired it with the fresh beans. I've nominated you for an award on my blog too at http://searchingforspice.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/versatile-blogger-award/

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    1. That must have been amazing fun, a cooking class in China! Thanks corina for the award!

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  18. I've never even heard of this before but the flavours sound very intriguing!

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  19. am liking your photography skills a lot! lovely shots!

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  20. I share this odd hobby of opening up the pods with you, I love eating fresh peas that way. Chili bean paste sounds very intriguing, I'm going to see if I can find it.

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    1. Hi fellow podder (: Did you manage to find it? I hope you do, it really is a delicious sauce!

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  21. The flavors in this dish sound amazing! Great photos. I love the illustrations throughout your blog... did you create those?

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    1. Thanks so much! Yup I did, I'm glad you like them!

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  22. Hi Shu Han

    May I ask which market did you get the fresh broad beans?

    I can't seem to find it in major supermarkets in Spore.

    Thanks!

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    1. heya! I got them from the farmer's market in london where I'm based! Not sure you can find them in singapore unfortunately..

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