An Avid Fan of Toban Djan

This Chicken, Shiitake and Watercress Stir-Fry gets deep complexity from Chinese fermented chile-bean sauce, also called toban djan, which can be found in the Asian section of well-stocked supermarkets. Grace Young, award-winning chef-author, extols the virtues of this sauce in her Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge cookbook and we’ve become avid converts.

We couldn’t resist stirring in an extra tablespoon of toban djan at the end. The dish comes together in a snap and is great with rice. Also fabulous as leftovers.


Chicken, Shiitake and Watercress Stir-fry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sake or Shaoxing
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. canola or other neutral oil
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. Chinese chile-bean sauce; more to taste
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 medium bunch watercress (6 oz.), stemmed
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar

Marinating the chicken chunks in corn starch, sake and soy sauce.

Browning the chicken in a skillet before removing to sauté the shiitakes.

Mushrooms cook in oil with chili-bean sauce and ginger.

After removing from heat, watercress and vinegar are stirred in.


  1. Put the chicken in a medium bowl and toss with 2 tsp. of the soy sauce, the sake, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Heat a wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the oil and the chicken to the pan in a single layer.
  2. Leave the chicken undisturbed for about a minute before stirring, and then cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and partially cooked, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.
  3. Return the pan to high heat. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, the chile-bean sauce, and ginger to the pan, and stir to combine. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Stir in the broth and the remaining 1 tsp. soy sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the watercress, vinegar, and more chile-bean sauce to taste. Toss until the watercress wilts. Serve hot.

By Laura B. Russell from Fine Cooking

1 thought on “An Avid Fan of Toban Djan

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