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The Difference Between Asian and Latin Black Beans

  I would like to know if there is a difference between Oriental black beans and the black beans used in Brazilian/Portuguese dishes.

  Yes, they are completely different.

The black beans from Asia are soybeans, which are generally fermented and preserved in salt. Botanically, they are glycine max, and are known as chi in China, where they have been an important condiment since at least the 2nd Century BC.

Fermented black beans may have been made with black soybeans, which have the same taste as yellow, white or brown soybeans, but this is not necessarily the case. The lighter beans may have been used, and darkened naturally during fermentation. Also known as Chinese black beans or salty or salted black beans, they have a very strong, salty flavor and are generally soaked for a half hour or so in fresh water before being added to a dish.

The black beans that are a staple in Central and South America are a variety of what bean counters, um, classifiers call the "haricot bean," or the phaseolus vulgaris. Haricot beans take in a huge variety of beans, including green beans, shell beans, flageolet beans, cranberry beans, pea beans, kidney beans, and many others, some of which are eaten fresh in the pod, some fresh out of the pod, some literally popped like popcorn, and others dried before eating.

The black beans particularly popular in South America, Spain and Portugal are called simply black bean (frijol negro in Spanish, feijao in Portuguese), or Mexican black bean or turtle bean. The beans can be eaten fresh in season, but are more often dried. The flavor has been described as "strong and full" and compared to meat or mushrooms.

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