I don't want buy any thing from China because of politics. Korea Japan are OK. But Toronto got just black bean and black bean sauce made in China.

Can I just skip black bean sauce for 豉椒炒蜆 ? If not, what substitute?

Stir-Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce | The Woks of Life

Madame Chu's Clams in Black Bean Sauce Recipe - NYT Cooking

  • 18 to 20 littleneck clams (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups liquid, preferably the juice of the clams
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 thin slices fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons crushed fermented black beans (see Tips, below)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallion, green part
  • 1
    Fermented black beans, not just black beans. Black eyed pea or pinto beans are probably closest in size and flavor to black beans. You could try fermenting those. May 29, 2020 at 1:50
  • You might try Korean chunjang? Chinese black bean sauce is actually made from black soy beans. Chunjang is made from regular soy beans and darkened with caramel (I think). You might also look into japanese natto in case they have their own native version of douchi. I've never tried any direct substitutions though, so I'm leaving this as a comment.
    – kitukwfyer
    May 29, 2020 at 4:41
  • 2
    Chinese fermented black beans is more like fermented charred black soybean, the precursor of soysauce, Chinese black bean paste and Korean Jjajang. But these derivatives tends to contain more salt so adjust accordingly. BTW the most popular brand fermented soy product in the US seems to be from HK. Jun 7, 2020 at 3:57
  • 2
    Why don’t you want to buy Chinese black beans?
    – zetaprime
    Jul 5, 2020 at 10:23
  • @zetaprime Politics. I don't want say more here. Too scared of China.
    – user24882
    Jul 5, 2020 at 21:20

2 Answers 2


Since no one more knowledgeable has come along, I'll go ahead and put together an answer.

Based on the recipe, it looks like you're actually intended to make your own black bean sauce using fermented black beans, or douchi. It seems that Chinese douchi are made and known as "hamanatto" in Japan as well. Searching online, there are retailers that you could purchase Japanese dried hamanatto from, but I have not done so myself. It looks like that would be the best direct substitute for douchi.

As a substitution for the resulting black bean sauce, I would personally recommend Korean chunjang. Chunjang, which also translates to black bean paste, is the major flavoring component in Jjajang sauce in Korea, and you can even find Jjajang (or "chajang") sauce premade.

I have Lee Kum Kee brand Chinese black bean sauce on hand as well as Assi brand Korean chunjang, so my mother and I did a small taste test (and included some other bean sauces, like doubanjiang, akamiso, and some zhajiang I prepared a while back.) We agreed that we of the options we had on hand, Korean chunjang would be the best substitution for a Mongolian beef recipe we love that also calls for Chinese black bean sauce if we ran out.

The black bean sauces were both predominantly salty, with some pleasant bitterness to them and a little sweetness. The Lee Kum Kee reminded me a little of bitter chocolate, but it was very mild. The chunjang on the other hand was much more aggressive all around, which makes sense since it's a paste rather than a prepared sauce. The bitterness and sweetness were both stronger, and it also had more acidity. It was also saltier, being more concentrated, but the other flavors seemed stronger proportionately. I might describe it as a little smoky, rather than chocolatey, which makes sense if black caramel color is added. But other than the acidity we both detected in the chunjang, the flavors were very similar. Both are complex flavors and can't be fully described, but while certainly different, I think chunjang would work well in a pinch, potentially with some extra salt, to taste.

My only other suggestion would be to look into fermenting your own douchi. You can buy black soy beans online, and you should also be able to purchase an aspergillus starter. It seems the basic process is to inoculate the steamed black soybeans with the aspergillus spores to create koji. After a week, the koji is washed (to remove bitterness), then dried and combined with salt (I saw references to a 15% brine as well as 15% salt by weight.) and then aged for several weeks or months. Again, I have not done this myself, and would recommend doing significantly more research before attempting. But based on what I've read it should be quite doable.

Good luck!

  • Thanks! "Based on the recipe, it looks like you're actually intended to make your own black bean sauce using fermented black beans, or douchi." Can you pls recommend alternatives to Black Bean Sauce? If I don't want make my own?
    – user24882
    Jul 5, 2020 at 21:21
  • Can you please answer this in your answer? I don't want comment chains pls.
    – user24882
    Jul 5, 2020 at 21:21
  • I have already recommended using Korean chunjang as an alternative to black bean sauce in my answer. I'll edit it slightly in case I was unclear.
    – kitukwfyer
    Jul 5, 2020 at 21:24

Soy sauce -- black in color, made from fermented soya beans, relatively cheap, easy, fast, and from a source acceptable to you (typically Japan). I think that it has the bean-funky-flavor called for in this dish.

Not all brands of soy sauce are equal. Kikkoman is great with sushi, and might work, but it is a little thin. Be sure to try a couple.

A thicker, funkier brand of soy sauce mixed with a simple can of black beans--drained of liquid--might be the quick and easy fix that you're looking for <3.

  • thanks. but just soy sauce? any thing to add to soy sauce?
    – user24882
    Jul 12, 2020 at 2:10
  • Soy sauce is made by fermenting beans--just like black bean sauce. Taste it.
    – kmiklas
    Jul 12, 2020 at 7:18
  • i've tasted soy sauce. i just thought soy sauce alone is too boring.
    – user24882
    Jul 13, 2020 at 3:59
  • Well, at least upvote my answer as a good try.
    – kmiklas
    Jul 13, 2020 at 14:01
  • 1
    i upvoted you. no offense!
    – user24882
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:20

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