Toban djan is another term for doubanjiang. This version of doubanjiang is most often associated with the Lee Kum Kee version of Sichuan’s favorite bean paste. Lee Kum Kee is a company from Hong Kong. If you are looking for alternatives, you have multiple options depending on what you are cooking. Here are some of the best toban djan substitutes.
Your best bet: Pixian doubanjiang
Pixian doubanjiang refers to one type of the Sichuan broad bean paste. It is different from toban djan in the fact that the term toban djan is most often used to refer to the Cantonese version of the sauce. The Pixian version comes from Pixian, a district in Sichuan. It has the authentic flavor that you will want if you plan to make Sichuan dishes at home.
Pixian doubanjiang is what you need if you want your versions of Sichuan classics like mapo tofu to taste like the real thing. It will be less ideal if you are trying to replicate the Cantonese versions of Sichuan dishes.
One note: It has a significant downside in that you may have a hard time finding it in some local brick-and-mortar Asian grocery stores. Note that this version will be noticeably hotter than the commercial toban djan from Lee Kum Kee and will also have a coarser texture.
A decent second choice: Ssamjang
A Korean sauce that includes both doenjang — a fermented soybean paste — and a chili paste called gochujang, ssamjang has a lot of what you want from toban djan. It has the heat from chili peppers and the saltiness of fermented soybean together with a similar kind of umami to that of toban djan.
Ssamjang originated as the seasoning sauce for the Korean street food wrap called ssam. It has since become popular as a general-purpose condiment. You can make your own ssamjang if you have access to doenjang and gochujang, or you can buy one of the commercial versions available in many Asian grocery stores.
Ssamjang is noticeably sweeter than toban djan, which may be undesirable in some recipes.
In a pinch: Black bean sauce
Black bean sauce is made with douchi, which is otherwise known as fermented black beans. Most versions will be flavored with garlic just like toban djan. Any version can work as a replacement for toban djan but to get the closest possible match, look for the variety that includes chili oil since it will offer a little heat.
Black bean sauce is used in Sichuan dishes just like toban djan. It provides a pungent and distinctive flavor to dishes and its flavor can be a little more assertive than that of toban djan, so you may want to use less of it than your recipe requires for toban djan. It offers a similar strong umami flavor and saltiness. Black bean sauce is relatively popular outside of China and will likely be available in many well-stocked grocery stores in the West. Alternatively, you can make black bean sauce from scratch if you can get your hands on some douchi.
A Korean fermented soybean product, doenjang is used a lot like doubanjiang. Along with the fermented soy flavor, it is a source of saltiness and umami in many Korean dishes. It is a popular addition to stews, soups and stir-fries. You can make it more like toban djan by adding some chili oil.