Sesame Paste

芝蔴醬 mandarin: jrr-ma-jyang; Cantonese: gee-ma-jyoong

Just like Chinese and Japanese sesame oil, Chinese sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds, and is a thoroughly different product from Middle Eastern tahini or sesame pastes sold in whole foods stores. The Chinese paste is dark brown in color, very aromatic and strong in flavor, and has the consistency of cement that is just about to harden. A layer of oil typically floats on top of the paste and keeps it moist.

I use Lan Chi brand Sesame Seed Paste, which is widely distributed in an 8-ounce bottle with a pink and white label. White Horse brand is also good. Before using, decant the oil into a small bowl, then dig out the paste you need with a sturdy small spoon or blunt knife. Return a thin layer of oil to the bottle to keep the remaining paste moist, then seal the bottle and keep it at room temperature, away from light and heat where it will keep indefinitely.

The oil that floats on the top of the sesame paste is not the equivalent of a top-quality Chinese or Japanese sesame oil. I discard it.