Condiments: Black Bean Sauce and Chili Garlic Paste

Last night I made my favorite Thai dishes: Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken and Eggplant & Bok Choy with Bean Sauce.  United Noodle (my local Asian grocery) was out of the japanese/chinese eggplants (the long skinny purple ones) so I used Thai eggplants (round and green) instead.  They don’t hold together as well in the dish, but it tasted just as marvelous as ever.

I used to be able to buy jars of Chili Garlic Paste and Yellow Bean Sauce that I liked.  But my preferred brand of Chili Garlic Paste is no longer available and the “starch” included in the Yellow Bean Sauce became suspect.  So now I make my own.

Many of the recipes for these condiments that appear online seem to be trying to imitate BAD additive- and preservative-filled versions that you might find in a jar at the grocery store.  They add thickeners like cornstarch and/or gums.  I decided to just stick to the essential flavors and make these sauces as simply as possible.  Here’s what I do:

Chili Garlic Paste

adapted from Sriracha-style hot sauce ( and Mark Bittman’s recipe at

Chili Garlic Paste

I combine the ideas from the two recipes cited above and use a combination of dry and fresh chilies, soaked in boiling water with a few cloves of garlic and then pureed in food processor with salt, sugar, and some oil.  If I’m going to use the paste within a day, I just store it in a glass bowl until I need it.  If I’m going to store any of it, I heat it first (in an attempt to kill off any bacteria from the fresh garlic and chilies) and then store in the freezer.

Here are the proportions I used most recently:

  • 3 large mild dry chiles (e.g. Guajillo), stems removed
  • 6 small hot dry chiles (e.g. Szechuan), stems removed
  • 4 fresh chiles (Thai, serrano, or jalapeño), stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 Tablespoons oil (sesame, canola)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (white or brown)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Put the chiles and garlic in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Soak for about 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving some of the water and seeds.
  2. Cut the larger chiles into smaller pieces.
  3. Put all the ingredients into a food processor, blender, or mini-chopper.  Purée until smooth, adding oil or water if needed.
  4. Heat in small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly.  Will keep for several days in the refrigerator or longer in the freezer.

Black Bean Sauce

adapted from recipes from Closet Cooking and Mastercook II

I haven’t found a good explanation of the difference between Thai Yellow Bean Sauce and the more familiar Black Bean Sauce.  I do enjoy Black Bean Sauce, so even though it probably makes my Thai dish more “fusion,” I decided to use Black Bean Sauce in the Eggplant & Bok Choy dish instead of Yellow Bean Sauce that contains “starch” of undefined origin.

The most difficult part of making your own Black Bean Sauce is finding Salted Black Beans.  I get mine at a local Asian market in a bag that looks like this:


Note that these are not the same as the black beans you would use for mexican food.  They are fermented in salt.  I store mine in the freezer.

  • 1/2 cup fermented/salted black beans
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon gluten-free Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Place fermented/salted black beans in a small saucepan and add water.  Leave to sit to rehydrate the beans (approx. 30 minutes, can be done earlier in the day).
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients.
  3. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.  Stir occasionally.





Thai Food Feast

Continuing the Around the Gluten-Free World Tour with my favorite Thai dishes.  I’ve been making these for years . . . not realizing that part of why they are so satisfying is that they contain no ingredients that my body considers toxic—no gluten, wheat, corn, or dairy.*

Both of these recipes originated in Keo’s Thai Cuisine (1986) but I’ve modified them enough (and provide annotations) to feel comfortable sharing them here.

Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken
adapted from Keo’s Thai Cuisine (1986)
Makes 3-4 servings

  • 1/2 – 1 pound boneless chicken breast
  • 3/4 c. to 1-1/2 c. coconut milk* [buy a 15 oz. can]
  • 2 to 6 small red chili peppers
  • 1/2 stalk fresh lemon grass
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 10 to 15 sweet basil leaves, cleaned, dried, and (if large) gently torn into 1″ pieces
  • 1 to 4 Tbls. fish sauce*
  • 2-3 T. oil
  • Thai Sweet Sticky Rice [Look for it in an Asian Grocery. You can substitute regular rice or a bed of chopped cabbage, but the sauce this dish makes is simply delicious with sweet sticky rice.] Your rice should be all cooked and ready to eat before you start cooking the chicken.


Cut chicken into thin strips. Pour about 1/3 c. coconut milk over the chicken and allow it to marinate while you get everything else ready.

chicken marinating

Grind together red chili peppers, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves in a food processor or mini-chopper until the lemon grass is in fine strands. [It helps to chop the lemon grass into 1 inch lengths before processing.]

The Lemon Grass, Lime Leaves, and Chilies mixture should be this finely chopped.

Heat oil to medium-high and saute the pepper/lemon grass/lime leaves mixture for 2 minutes. You want it to soften and release its flavors, but not burn or brown too much. Add about 1/4 c. coconut milk and stir to blend, about 1 minute.

Lemon Grass, Lime Leaves, and Chilies mixture cookingLemon Grass & Coconut Milk Mixture

Add chicken in its coconut milk marinade. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add in a bit more coconut milk (if desired). Stir in fish sauce and basil leaves.

Evil Jungle Prince w/Chicken in wok

Serve over Thai Sweet Sticky Rice.

Evil Jungle Prince w/Chicken


  • My local Asian grocery often runs out of Thai Basil before I can get there, so whenever I am lucky enough to get a bunch (which is usually much more than I need for a recipe) I make “Thai Basil Cubes” with any extra:  clean and stem the basil leaves, combine with a little water in a food processor, pulse/chop, spoon into ice cube trays, freeze, transfer to a ziploc bag.  Most of the pictures above are from yesterday, when I had to thaw a handful of basil cubes, strain, and add the leaves to the dish.

thawed and strained thai basil cubes

  • If you don’t have a food processor or mini-chopper to mince the lemon grass/lime leaves/chilis as finely as shown in the recipe, I recommend leaving them whole and removing them from the sauce before serving . . . the flavors will be more subtle, but there’s nothing worse than chewing on tough lemon grass.  Here’s the mini-chopper I use (not sure they even still make these):

Cuisinart Mini-Chopper/Grinder circa 1980s

  • Most of the pictures above are of a double-batch of the recipe (enough to feed 6-8). The recipe as written is what I usually make; I get four meals out of it when combined with the recipe below for Eggplant & Bok Choy.

Copyright © 2012, Lucinda DeWitt


Thai Eggplant with Bok Choy
adapted from “Eggplant with Chicken” in Keo’s Thai Cuisine (1986)

  • 2-3 Chinese/Japanese eggplants (the thin kind, not the fat Mediterranean kind) or 1 pound of Thai eggplants (small round green eggplants)
  • 4-5 baby bok choy (or 1 small bunch broccoli)
  • 6 Tbls oil
  • 1-2 tsp chili paste with garlic*
  • 10-15 Thai basil leaves
  • 1-3 Tbls yellow bean sauce* (or 4-5 Tablesppons of homemade Black Bean Sauce)
  • Thai Sweet Sticky Rice

Slice unpeeled eggplant crosswise into thin slices (1/4-3/8 inch thick). Remove the end, then separate and rinse the leaves of the bok choi. Chop into bite-sized pieces. (If using broccoli instead, separate broccoli into flowerettes and/or spears. Peel and chop the tender part of the broccoli stalk if desired.)

Bok Choy & Eggplant prep

Heat oil over medium-high heat in wok. Add chili paste with garlic. (Careful, it will splatter.) Add eggplant and cook for 3-4 minutes, getting all the slices coated with the oil/chili paste.

Eggplant in Chili Oil

Add bok choy or broccoli, stir to coat.

Add Bok ChoyEggplant & Bok Choy

Cover and cook/steam for 5-7 minutes. Add yellow bean sauce, stir to coat. Just before serving (when all the vegetables are cooked) add basil leaves.

Eggplant w/Bok Choy in Yellow Bean Sauce

Serve immediately over Thai Sweet Sticky Rice.

Makes 3-4 servings.


  • The original version of this dish used 1/3 pound boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced, cooked with the eggplant (rather than the broccoli). It also used crushed garlic and red chili peppers instead of chili paste, but it was difficult to avoid burning the garlic, thus my substitution of chili paste with garlic.
  • This dish works well with Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken.

Copyright © 2012, Lucinda DeWitt

* Do be certain to read the ingredients on any of the Asian sauces used in these recipes to verify that they are gluten-free/corn-free/dairy-free as you require . . . I’ve been able to find brands that seem “safe enough” for me, but none of them are labeled “gluten-free” (and no one is required to even acknowledge when their ingredients are “derived from corn”)  . . . use your own judgment and substitute where necessary.  Feel free to post substitution questions and comments in the comments below.
fish sauce, yellow bean sauce, chili sauce

Update:  I now make my own Chili Garlic Paste and Bean Sauce (Black rather than Yellow Bean).  You can find my recipes here.