If you love Chinese food as much as I do, then the chances are good you also love the sweet, tangy flavor found in many of its most popular dishes.
What you might not realize is that the delicious taste is molasses!
For years, I was under the impression that it was another fav of mine, Hoisin sauce, but I’ll leave my obsession with that for another time.
For now, let’s get back to molasses.
Molasses, you say?
Yep, but it’s a very special type known as bead molasses.
If you’re like me, you’re probably already familiar with the syrupy taste and love it as much as I do. Although it’s widely used in restaurants, it’s not always easy to find at your local grocery store so the chances are good that you might not have any experience with it in your kitchen at home.
So what is bead molasses?
Bead molasses is a sweet, thick molasses that is made by using the scrapings from the bottoms of pans or barrels that are used when molasses is cooked.
Let’s take a closer look at bead molasses and learn what makes it such a delicious and special addition to any of your Asian inspired dishes!
Table of Contents
What Is Bead Molasses Used For?
Bead molasses has a long history as a sweetener in classic Chinese dishes like chop suey, chow mein, Chinese bean sprout stir fry and other tasty Asian cuisines. In addition to its sweetness, it’s also used as a browning color agent in recipes.
Is Bead Molasses the Same As Molasses?
Bead molasses is similar to molasses in that it’s a byproduct of refining sugarcane but it is sweeter. It is also darker than light molasses but not with hints of bitterness that you would find in blackstrap molasses.
Does Bead Molasses Need to Be Refrigerated?
No, like other types of molasses, bead molasses does not need to be refrigerated. Molasses holds moisture very well (hygroscopic) which makes it unavailable for bacterial growth and less prone to spoilage. Another example of a hygroscopic sugar you are familiar with is honey.
Like honey, bead molasses will have a long shelf life even after they have been opened, in some environments it can be many years. That said, if you live in a humid climate or one prone to insects, keeping your bead molasses in the fridge would keep the pests at bay.
Be aware that if you refrigerate bead molasses, you’d find it to be extremely thick and pouring it will be difficult, if not impossible. Refrigeration increases the viscosity (thickness) of molasses, so if you were to do it, you’d need to let it reach room temperature again before using it.
Popular Bead Molasses Recipes
Most Asian dishes just won’t have the same flavor without the addition of bead molasses or at the very least, some close substitutes for it. Some of the most common types of recipes that use it include:
- Beef Chop Suey
- Pork Chop Suey
- Pepper Streak
- Lettuce Wraps
- Orange Chicken
- Chinese Fried Rice
Where to Buy Bead Molasses
The most popular brand of bead molasses is Dynasty Bead Molasses, which is sold by JFC International. Founded in 1906, today it is a major importer and producer of specialty Asian foods and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kikkoman brand.
If you’re shopping at your local grocery store, it’s possible that you can find bead molasses in the Asian cuisine section. If not, it’s widely available online.