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Chinese Sesame Paste Recipe: How to Make It at Home

Chinese sesame paste, also known as zhi ma jiang, is a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine. It is a thick, nutty paste made from roasted sesame seeds and oil, which is used to add depth and flavour to a variety of dishes. Whether you are a seasoned cook or just starting out, learning how to make your own Chinese sesame paste is a great way to elevate your dishes and impress your friends and family.

A bowl of sesame seeds being ground into a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle. Ingredients like sugar and oil are nearby

Understanding Chinese Sesame Paste is the first step in mastering this versatile ingredient. It is important to know the essential ingredients and substitutes, as well as how to prepare the perfect sesame paste. Once you have mastered the basics, you can explore the many versatile uses of Chinese sesame paste in Chinese cooking, from sauces for salads and noodles to fillings for buns and bread and dipping sauces for hot pot.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese sesame paste is a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine that adds depth and flavour to a variety of dishes.
  • Understanding the essential ingredients and substitutes, as well as how to prepare the perfect sesame paste, is key to mastering this versatile ingredient.
  • Chinese sesame paste can be used in a variety of ways in Chinese cooking, from sauces to fillings and dipping sauces, and can be combined with seafood for an extra layer of flavour.

Understanding Chinese Sesame Paste

A bowl of Chinese sesame paste sits on a wooden table, surrounded by sesame seeds and a jar of honey

Chinese sesame paste, also known as zhī ma jiàng or zhi ma jiang, is a thick, rich, and nutty paste made from roasted white sesame seeds. It has a similar texture to natural smooth peanut butter, but with a smokier, nuttier, and richer flavor.

Origins and Cultural Significance

Sesame paste has been a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine for centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), where it was used in various dishes, including noodles, dumplings, and sauces. Today, it remains a popular ingredient in many Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, such as cold noodles and dan dan noodles.

Chinese sesame paste is also an essential ingredient in Chinese medicine and is believed to have many health benefits. It is said to help with digestion, boost energy levels, and improve overall health and wellbeing.

Comparison to Tahini and Other Nut Butters

While sesame paste may resemble tahini and other nut butters, there are some significant differences. Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds, while Chinese sesame paste is made from roasted sesame seeds. As a result, Chinese sesame paste has a smokier, nuttier flavor and a darker color than tahini.

Compared to other nut butters, such as peanut butter and almond butter, Chinese sesame paste has a more intense and complex flavor profile. It also has a thicker consistency, making it an ideal ingredient for dips, dressings, and sauces.

If you're looking to add some seafood to your Chinese sesame paste recipe, you can try adding some cooked shrimp, crab meat, or scallops. These seafood options pair well with the nutty and smoky flavor of the sesame paste and can add some extra protein and texture to your dish.

Essential Ingredients and Substitutes

A wooden spoon stirs Chinese sesame paste in a ceramic bowl, surrounded by jars of sesame seeds, soy sauce, and vinegar

When it comes to making Chinese sesame paste, there are a few key ingredients that you'll need to ensure an authentic flavour. In this section, we'll cover the essential ingredients as well as some common substitutes that you can use if you don't have access to certain ingredients.

Key Ingredients for Authentic Flavour

The first and most important ingredient for Chinese sesame paste is, of course, toasted sesame seeds. These seeds are what give the paste its distinctive nutty flavour and aroma. You can either buy pre-toasted sesame seeds or toast them yourself in a dry pan.

Another important ingredient is sesame oil. This oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and is used to add depth and richness to the paste. You can use either toasted or untoasted sesame oil, but toasted sesame oil will give you a more intense flavour.

Common Substitutes and Their Impact

If you don't have access to toasted sesame seeds or sesame oil, there are a few substitutes that you can use. One common substitute is natural peanut butter. This can be used in a 1:1 ratio and will give you a similar nutty flavour. Other nut butters such as almond, cashew, pistachio, and walnut can also be used.

Tahini is another popular substitute for Chinese sesame paste. It is made from ground sesame seeds and has a similar nutty flavour. This is a great option if you want to make a vegan or nut-free version of the paste.

If you're looking for a seafood twist, you can add some shrimp paste to your sesame paste recipe. This will give it a slightly salty and umami flavour that pairs well with seafood dishes. Alternatively, you can add some chopped up prawns or crab meat to your sesame paste for a more substantial seafood flavour.

Overall, there are many ingredients and substitutes that you can use to make Chinese sesame paste. Experiment with different combinations to find the flavour that works best for you.

Preparing the Perfect Sesame Paste

A hand pours toasted sesame seeds into a mortar. Another hand grinds the seeds into a smooth paste using a pestle

Making the perfect sesame paste requires a few key techniques to achieve the desired smoothness and flavour. Here are some tips to help you prepare the perfect sesame paste.

Roasting and Grinding Sesame Seeds

The first step in making sesame paste is to roast the sesame seeds. Toasted white sesame seeds are typically used for this recipe. You can roast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant. Alternatively, you can roast the sesame seeds in the oven at 350°F (180°C) for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant.

Once the sesame seeds are roasted, allow them to cool completely before grinding them. You can grind the sesame seeds in a food processor or blender. Add a little oil to help the sesame seeds blend smoothly. You can also add a little water to help achieve the desired consistency. Be sure to blend the sesame seeds until they are completely smooth.

Blending Techniques for Smoothness

To achieve a smooth and creamy texture, it is important to blend the sesame paste thoroughly. You can use a food processor or blender to achieve the desired smoothness. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender as needed to ensure that all of the sesame paste is blended evenly.

If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can add a little oil or water to the sesame paste. Be sure to add these ingredients gradually, blending the sesame paste thoroughly after each addition, until you achieve the desired consistency.

Seafood can be a great addition to this recipe. You can add shrimp or crab meat to the sesame paste for a delicious seafood twist. Simply blend the seafood into the sesame paste until it is completely smooth.

Versatile Uses in Chinese Cooking

A hand mixing sesame paste with soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl. Ingredients and utensils scattered on a wooden table

Chinese sesame paste is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways in Chinese cuisine. Here are some common uses for sesame paste in Chinese cooking.

Sesame Noodles and Dan Dan Noodles

Sesame paste is an essential ingredient in many noodle dishes in Chinese cuisine. One of the most popular dishes is sesame noodles, which are typically made with a sauce that includes sesame paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and other seasonings. Another popular noodle dish that uses sesame paste is dan dan noodles, which are typically served with a spicy sauce that includes sesame paste, chili oil, and Sichuan peppercorns.

If you're a seafood lover, you can add seafood to your sesame noodles or dan dan noodles. For example, you can add shrimp or squid to your sesame noodles or add clams to your dan dan noodles for a delicious seafood twist.

Sauces, Dressings, and Dipping Sauces

Sesame paste is also commonly used in sauces, dressings, and dipping sauces in Chinese cuisine. It can be used to add nuttiness and creaminess to a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to salads to buns.

One popular condiment that uses sesame paste is hoisin sauce, which is often used as a dipping sauce for hot pot. Sesame paste can also be used to make a variety of dressings for salads, such as a sesame ginger dressing or a sesame soy dressing.

If you want to add seafood to your sauces, dressings, or dipping sauces, you can use shrimp or crab meat. For example, you can add shrimp to your sesame ginger dressing or crab meat to your hoisin sauce for a delicious seafood twist.

Storage and Preservation Tips

A jar of Chinese sesame paste sits on a shelf, tightly sealed and labeled with the recipe name. Nearby, a stack of airtight containers holds additional ingredients for preservation

When it comes to storing and preserving Chinese sesame paste, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure that it stays fresh and tasty for as long as possible. Here are some tips to help you store and preserve your sesame paste:

Optimal Conditions for Freshness

To ensure that your sesame paste stays fresh and tasty for as long as possible, it is important to store it in the right conditions. Ideally, you should keep your sesame paste in an airtight container in the fridge. This will help to prevent the paste from becoming rancid or developing an off-flavour.

Shelf Life and Freezing Options

Typically, homemade sesame paste will last for up to a month in the fridge. However, if you want to extend the shelf life of your sesame paste, you can freeze it. To freeze your sesame paste, simply transfer it to an airtight container and place it in the freezer. When you're ready to use it, simply thaw it in the fridge overnight.

It's worth noting that while freezing sesame paste is a good option for extending its shelf life, it can affect the texture and flavour of the paste. As such, it's best to use frozen sesame paste for cooking rather than as a condiment.

If you're looking to add some seafood to your Chinese sesame paste recipe, you might want to consider using prawns or shrimp. These can be added to the paste to create a delicious seafood dip or sauce that pairs well with noodles, salad and other dishes. Just be sure to cook the prawns or shrimp thoroughly before adding them to the paste to ensure that they are safe to eat.

Frequently Asked Questions

A bowl of Chinese sesame paste surrounded by ingredients and utensils, with a list of frequently asked questions written on a piece of paper beside it

What's the best way to store Chinese sesame paste?

Chinese sesame paste should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life. Make sure to stir it before using to ensure that the oil and paste are well-mixed.

Can you substitute tahini for Chinese sesame paste in recipes?

Tahini can be used as a substitute for Chinese sesame paste in recipes, but the taste and consistency will be slightly different. Tahini is made from unhulled sesame seeds, while Chinese sesame paste is made from roasted sesame seeds, which gives it a deeper, nuttier flavour. If you decide to use tahini, you may need to adjust the seasoning to achieve the desired taste.

How do you make black sesame paste from scratch?

To make black sesame paste, you'll need to use black sesame seeds instead of white sesame seeds. Toast the black sesame seeds until fragrant, then blend them in a food processor or blender with a small amount of oil until it forms a smooth paste. You can add sugar or honey to sweeten it if desired.

What dishes can you make with sesame seed paste?

Sesame seed paste can be used in a variety of dishes, including noodles, stir-fries, marinades, dressings, and sauces. It can also be used as a dip for vegetables or crackers. In Chinese cuisine, it is often used in cold noodle dishes and hot pot dipping sauces.

Are there any notable differences between Japanese and Chinese sesame pastes?

Japanese sesame paste, or neri goma, is made from unhulled sesame seeds, while Chinese sesame paste is made from roasted sesame seeds. Japanese sesame paste is also smoother and creamier in texture, while Chinese sesame paste is thicker and more grainy.

Where's the ideal place to buy authentic Chinese sesame paste?

You can find authentic Chinese sesame paste at Asian grocery stores or online. Look for brands that use high-quality sesame seeds and have a good reputation. If you have access to a Chinese market, that's an excellent place to buy authentic sesame paste.

As a suggestion, you can use seafood in your sesame paste recipe. Shrimp or scallops can be added to stir-fries or noodles for a delicious seafood twist.