Toban Djan: History, Flavor, Benefits, Uses

Toban djan is a broad bean paste that is effectively the same product as doubanjiang. Other names for the product include chili bean paste. The beans used to make toban djan are sometimes called fava beans. It shares the same history with doubanjiang, which is that it was supposedly invented by Chinese people fleeing quickly and taking cooked beans and chili peppers with them, only to find out later on that they had fermented. This history is not associated with a particular era, though it would be after chili peppers had made their way to China, so after the 16th century.

The term toban djan (as opposed to the more common doubanjiang) appears to be associated with the broad bean sauce made by the Lee Kum Kee company. The term does not appear to be used currently for any other version of the sauce. Lee Kum Kee is the company most associated with packaged Chinese sauces and seasonings sold in the West. Lee Kum Kee is based in Hong Kong and manufactures a wide range of Asian sauces. Lee Kum Kee’s toban djan has been described as a Cantonese-style doubanjiang. Unlike the Sichuan version of the sauce that always has chili peppers, the Cantonese style may or may not contain them.

The broad beans that are fermented to make toban djan are a big part of Sichuan cuisine, so much so that they are called Sichuan beans in some parts of China. While the beans are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, there is evidence of them being consumed in Central Asia going back to the 3rd millennium BCE.

Toban djan flavor profile

Toban djan is used to provide saltiness, umami and a little spice to dishes. It will have an earthiness from the fermented soy it contains as well as from garlic.

Health benefits of toban djan

Toban djan can provide some benefits for health because of compounds like:

  • Protein: Toban djan can provide a significant amount of protein despite the small serving size.
  • Isoflavones: Like soybeans, the broad beans in toban djan are rich in isoflavones with antioxidant properties and are beneficial for treating various serious diseases.

If you add toban djan to your diet, it may prevent certain health problems or provide relief. Those health problems include:

  • Cancer: The isoflavones from the fermented broad beans in toban djan and the capsaicin from the chili peppers are both believed to have anti-cancer properties.
  • Poor gut health: Like many fermented foods, toban djan can have a beneficial impact on gut flora and gut health.

Health concerns

Toban djan has a considerable amount of sodium per serving, which means that it can cause serious health issues. High blood pressure is one of the main health problems that can arise from excessive salt intake and plays a major role in heart disease, strokes and dementia. Too much salt can also affect sleep quality and increase your risk of developing stomach cancer.

Common uses

Because toban djan is a Cantonese version of a Sichuan ingredient, it is not ideal for Sichuan dishes. It won’t give you the authentic flavor of Sichuan doubanjiang. That said, the distinction is not likely to be important for Westerners and toban djan is likely to be the easiest fermented broad bean paste to find as well as the most affordable. Outside of Sichuan, toban djan is often used to make kung pao chicken.