Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dajiang (food)

Dajiang is a type of that is popular in . The tradition of eating ''dajiang'' is said to have been started by the Manchurians, who originally occupied China's northeastern provinces. people enjoy eating raw vegetables in the summer, and ''dajiang'' is used like a salad dressing to add flavor.

The paste bears a great similarity in texture and taste to the soybean paste called ''doenjang'' , although it is milder due to the lack of added chili pepper, which is sometimes used in ''doenjang''. ''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 get fermented. 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 the sunny area so the fermentation to 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 . Common vegetables that are commonly paired with ''dajiang'' are scallions, eggplant, and green peppers. ''Dajiang'' can also be cooked with s and minced meat to make sauce for the dish called ''zhajiangmian''.

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