5 Types of Chinese Beans To Try Tonight

Types of Chinese Beans

If you’ve spent any time on our site, you know we’re huge fans of Chinese food!

Aside from the delectable sauces and savory meats, one of the very best things about this cuisine are all the crunchy, delicious and nutritious types of Chinese beans.

For all you Asian foodies out there, you’re going to love this list of the most commonly used kinds and I’m quite sure they’ll find their way into one of your recipes soon.

Chinese Green Beans (Vigna unguiculata)

Also Called: Yard Long Beans, Cowpea Beans, Snake Beans, Chinese Long Beans

The common name for these giants of a bean is the Chinese Yard long Bean and for good reason. When fully matured, they can reach an amazing three feet in length!

Most of the time though, they are harvested before they reach this point, usually at around the 70-80 day mark. During their growth period, the beans grow from clusters of long vines and dangle like ropes.

There are several popular varieties of the long bean including the Red Noodle, Purple Podded, Liana, Stickless Wonder and of course, the famous Yard Long.

If you’ve never tried the Chinese Long Bean, it’s possible you’ve tried one of its relatives – black-eyed peas.

They grow quite easily in warmer climates and, as might expect, are an important crop in China and other Asian countries.

Many popular dishes that feature yard long beans, especially in stir-fry where they lend a very distinctive flavor and also in fermented form as a bean curd option. Although they are sometimes used in place of green beans, this is less common in Asian countries where the Yard Long is more plentiful. 

Name Also Known As Length Growth Period Popular Varieties Origin Common Uses
Chinese Green Beans Yard Long Beans, Cowpea Beans, Snake Beans, Chinese Long Beans Up to 3 feet 70-80 days Red Noodle, Purple Podded, Liana, Stickless Wonder, Yard Long China and other Asian countries Stir-fry, fermented as bean curd

Adzuki Beans (Hongdou, Vigna angularis)

Also Called: Aduki beans, Winged Beans

Unlike Yard Long green beans, the pods containing Adzuki beans are much shorter and more tan than green when fully matured. Another important difference is that the beans themselves are red in color, not green and smaller.

In fact, the term Adzuki is a Japanese translation that means “small bean”. 

Even though Adzuki beans are red, they aren’t the same thing as kidney beans. They are tinier and unlike kidney beans, they’re roundish in shape as opposed to the more familiar kidney-shaped beans you might be used to.

Featuring a slightly sweet but nutty flavor Adzuki beans add a wonderful taste to almost any Asian inspired dish. The beans also have a meaty texture to them which enhances mouthfeel.

Because of their sweet taste, Adzuki beans are commonly used in desserts in Asian cultures. Their use covers the delectable dessert gamut and can include ice cream, cakes, pastries and other delicacies.

Last, Adzuki beans are sometimes fashioned into a paste which can be used as a filling for breads, buns and dumplings. 

Name Also Known As Appearance Shape Flavor Origin Common Uses
Adzuki Beans Aduki beans, Winged Beans Red, smaller than green Roundish Slightly sweet and nutty Japan Asian dishes, desserts, bread, buns and dumplings filling

Broad Beans (Luo Han Dou)

Also Called: Fava Beans, Faba Beans

Broad beans are one of the most popular beans in China and although they have the appearance and overall flavor of a bean, they are actually related to peas.

When fully mature, the pods that contain the beans, can grow up to 12 inches in length. Each pod will yield about seven beans which look similar to lima beans but with a more angular shape to them.

In traditional Chinese cuisine, broad beans are consumed alone while in other dishes, they are used as a seasoning. In one of the most popular preparations, the beans are dried before being cooked down and allowed to ferment. Once the fermentation is underway, garlic and chili is added to the mix to create a delicious paste. This paste is known as hot bean paste and is a staple of Sichuan cuisine.

If you’re looking for broad beans, they are commonly sold frozen at Asian markets with the outer shell removed. This is in contrast to what you may experience when eating broad beans at a restaurant when the outer shell is usually still intact. This can make them a little tougher to eat, but there’s no loss in flavor with these scrumptious legumes.

Name Also Known As Appearance Flavor Origin Common Uses
Broad Beans Fava Beans, Faba Beans Pods up to 12 inches, beans look similar to Lima beans Bean-like China Alone, seasoning, fermented with garlic and chili to create a paste (Hot Bean paste), commonly sold frozen at Asian markets

Mung Beans (Douya, Vigna radiata)

Mung beans are considerably smaller than the much larger broad bean. Approximately 1/8″ in diameter, these beans may come in a variety of colors including black, brown or green. Often referred to simply as “bean sprouts”, mung beans will usually mature between 90-120 days and are considered a warm season crop. Growers of mung beans prefer loamy, fertile soil so as to allow for maximum nutrient uptake.

Mung beans are eaten as sprouts, peeled and split or ground up into a paste. When a mung bean is peeled, a mustard-colored interior is revealed. Some describe the taste of raw mung beans as being slightly sweet. Once cooked, some of the sweet flavor remains and is accompanied by a meaty, hearty texture which makes it perfect as a meat substitute, especially in vegan or vegetarian dishes.

Boiling mung beans is the most common preparation method. They can be prepared as a paste once pulverized but mung beans are most often used in Chinese cuisine as a side dish. They may be flavored with spices like garlic or ginger and used to add flavor to a number of traditional Chinese dishes.

Name Appearance Size Maturity Period Preferred Soil Common Uses
Mung Beans Black, brown or green 1/8″ diameter 90-120 days Loamy, fertile soil Sprouts, peeled and split, ground up into a paste, meat substitute, side dish in Chinese cuisine, flavoured with spices like garlic or ginger

Chinese Fermented Black Beans (Douchi)

Often confused with regular black beans that are used in Mexican cuisine, fermented black beans are quite different. Fermented black beans are actually soybeans and not regular beans that you would order as a side with your fajitas.

The process of fermenting the beans results in strong salty taste with hints of bitter and sweet mixed in. The most common uses for fermented black beans in Chinese cuisine are as a paste or as a seasoning element.

If you’re thinking of using some for a recipe, it’s highly advised to rinse them before use. Otherwise, the saltiness of the beans might overwhelm other ingredients in the meal. Since the beans are hard, they will need to be rehydrated prior to use. You can either use water to do this or perhaps another liquid ingredient in the recipe like vinegar, soy sauce or rice wine.

Once rehydrated, fermented back beans will be firm but chewy. Because of the strong taste, fermented black beans pair well with other spices that have strong flavor profiles like garlic, ginger, onion or chiles. In most Chinese dishes, fermented black beans are used in stir-fry or other side dishes like sauces.

Name Description Flavor Common Uses Preparation Pairing
Chinese Fermented Black Beans (Douchi) Fermented soybeans Strong salty with hints of bitter and sweet Paste or seasoning in Chinese cuisine Rinse before use, rehydrate before use, pairs well with strong flavored spices like garlic, ginger, onion or chiles, mostly used in stir-fry or side dishes Chinese dishes, Stir-fry, sauces
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