It's no exaggeration to say that this 3-year-old Pixian chili bean paste is the pinnacle of traditional Sichuan food production. Made entirely by hand—as it has been since 1688—this Yi Feng He Hao douban is the premium product of Sichuan Pixian Douban Co., which also makes the popular 1-year Juan Cheng Pai brand.
Made in Pixian County, Sichuan, both brands are a fermented mix of broad (fava) beans, er jing tiao chilies, salt and wheat flour—and nothing more, no extraneous ingredients, additives or preservatives. They are a pure concentration of spicy, salty, natural umami.
Unlike the 1-year bean paste, which is aged in long, industrial, cement troughs, the 3-year is aged in small batches in 3-foot-tall earthenware crocks with conical lids. Each day those lids are removed, the doubanjiang is stirred by hand and then left to bask in the rural Sichuan sun and air—a vital part of the recipe.
This 1,000-plus days of careful, hands-on aging makes for an extremely complex taste. While young douban is brash and sharp, the older version is funkier and rounder, with layer upon layer of soulful flavor that lingers far after the initial hit of heat and salt.
Go here for more information about the history and production of Pixian doubanjiang.
Honors and Certifications:
Pixian doubanjiang is a protected geographic indication and is one of the few food products in China whose craftsmanship qualifies as national intangible cultural heritage; all brands are strictly regulated by the Pixian Food Industry Association.
Sichuan Pixian Douban Co. grows all its own beans and chilies, maintaining complete control over the entire process, and its doubans are certified as Green Food by the agency in China that regulates organic and non-chemical food production. They meet international safety standards including FDA, HACCP, ISO 9001 and halal.
The company has also earned the rare designation of China Time-Honored Brand.
The Mala Market is the exclusive (authorized) importer of 3-year Yi Feng He Hao to the U.S.
Pixian chili bean paste is often called the soul of Sichuan cooking, as it is the base of so many classic Sichuan dishes. Here are just a few of the dishes that cannot be made without Pixian doubanjiang. Click the links for recipes:
But in fact you don't even need a recipe to utilize this powerful flavor, as a tablespoon or two (less if you are sensitive to salt) can be the base for any stir-fried or braised dish. If you prefer not to have any pieces of bean or chili, run the paste through a food processor or mince with a knife before use.
Transfer contents of package to a jar and it will last indefinitely in the refrigerator.
Producer: Sichuan Pixian Douban Co., Pixian County, Sichuan
Ingredients: Chilies, broad beans, salt, wheat flour
Best by: March 2021
Size: 17.6 ounces (500 grams)
From "Born to Be Fascinating" in The Wall Street Journal:
Since 1688, Sichuan Pixian Douban Co. has produced doubanjiang, the chile-bean paste essential to Sichuanese cuisine. The three-year-aged version available today is made the traditional way. Fermented and aged in earthenware crocks stirred daily by hand, the jammy paste develops layers of earthy, savory flavor and slow-burning heat. Imported exclusively by the Mala Market, it’s as close as you can get to journeying through time by the spoonful. —Gabriella Gershenson