- Dajiang (food)
Dajiang (Chinese: 大酱; pinyin: dàjiàng; literally "great paste") is a type of fermented soybean paste that is popular in Northeast China. The tradition of eating dajiang is said to have been started by the Manchu people, who originally occupied China's northeastern provinces. Northeastern Chinese people enjoy eating raw vegetables in the summer, and dajiang is used like a salad dressing to add flavor.
Doenjang is similarly used in Korean cuisine as a dip for raw vegetables.
In the countryside of the Northeastern region, it is a family tradition to make a large jar of dajiang every year. The common method of creating dajiang takes months to prepare. While some families may do start as early as the previous fall, it is usually started on the second day of the second month in the Lunar Calendar. Soybeans are picked and soaked in water for five hours, then boiled for about three hours. The boiled beans are smashed or blended into a paste, then formed into 30 cm long, 20 cm2 cross-section blocks. The blocks are placed in a cool, airy, and shaded area for three to five days to dry, then cut into 5-10 cm long sections, wrapped in paper, and stored until April or May. Usually around the eighteenth or the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the Lunar Calendar, the paste would have grown white mould, which indicates that it is ready. The paste is broken down into small pieces, placed in a large dajiang jar, and mixed with salt and water. A special wooden stick with a square head is used to blend the mixture. This needs to be done once or twice every day for approximately one month. During this time, the dajiang jar is covered with cotton gauze and placed under bright sunlight in order for the mixture to ferment. Foam and impurities are scooped up during and after each mixing session. After this process, the dajiang becomes a yellowish, runny paste, and is ready to eat. One jar of dajiang can last the whole summer for a family. As dajiang paste is being consumed for each meal, more salt and water are added to make the paste last longer. The wooden tool is used every two or three days to further blend the dajiang mixture. The jar remains in a sunny area so the fermentation can continue.
In the summer, fresh vegetables are picked and washed, and mixed with dajiang. Dajiang not only gives the vegetables more flavor, but also provides the salty taste for eating with mantou or grains such as rice or sorghum. Common vegetables that are commonly paired with dajiang are scallions, eggplant, and green peppers. Dajiang (as an alternative to sweet bean sauce) can also be cooked with eggs and minced meat to make sauce for the noodle dish called zhajiangmian.
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