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Certain Chinese dishes like the Sichuan dish, Mapo Tofu, call for "Spicy Bean Paste." But the only Spicy Bean Pastes I am able to find at the local Asian Market contain sugar and MSG--two ingredients I try to avoid.

Does the more readily available Japanese bean paste "miso" bear any relation to the bean pastes used in Chinese cooking? And if I were to add something like Sambal Olek to the miso, would I be able to arrive at something similar to the "spicy bean paste" called for in my recipe? If so, which variety of miso would be recommended for achieving the closest flavor?

I have also read that some Chinese cooks prefer to make their own bean paste rather than purchase premade, but I have not been able to locate a recipe. If anyone has one or has a link to one, I would love to take a look at it.