Black bean paste is made from mung beans and is a traditional cooking additive to various Chinese recipes. The consistency varies depending on the other ingredients added to the paste, and some versions are more sauce-like. Black bean varieties of the paste are not as well-known in some regions as its counterpart made from red beans, but the sauce is still just as popular in Asia. This type of paste can be prepared from scratch with black beans or bought in jars of sauces from grocery stores. Black bean paste is a popular additive to stir-fry dishes, as well as those that include chicken and fish.
Different types of beans are used around the world in side dishes, or are mashed to create fillings and sauces for a variety of meals. In parts of Asia, black, or mung beans, are traditionally used to create sweet pastes for mooncakes and other types of desserts. Sweet bean pastes are traditionally prepared from scratch, which can often be time consuming depending on how long the mung beans take to cook. In order to create the paste, the black beans are cooked and mashed before they are combined with salt and other seasonings, such as garlic. Water and soy sauce are often added if a more liquid consistency is desired.
As the sauces continue to gain popularity in other regions besides China and Taiwan, many Asian food manufacturers have decided to process their own versions and sell them in grocery stores. Black bean paste is usually sold as a jarred sauce in supermarkets because it tends to preserve better. The sauces are usually located in the ethnic aisles of western supermarkets, but there are generally a larger variety of the pastes available in Asian food stores.
Deciding between a homemade black bean paste and jarred sauces depends on what types of dishes are being cooked. The paste version tends to work best in mooncakes and other traditional Chinese desserts because the consistency is thicker. Black bean sauces are popular additions to stir-fry meals, since they help to cook the vegetables while keeping the texture moist. Both pastes and sauces can be used as rubs for chicken and fish.
Making black bean paste from scratch may be more time consuming, but there are usually greater health benefits. Packaged and processed sauces tend to contain high levels of sodium, which can be particularly unhealthy for eaters that have hypertension. If a cook tends to use black bean paste often, he or she might consider making it in bulk and freezing portions of it for later use.