I just came back from a long weekend of Chinese New Year celebrations in Boston, where I basically gorged on good seafood the whole time.
It's the double threat of being in a New England city known for its abundance of seafood, and being in the midst of the New Year celebrations where lobster, steamed fish, seafood nests, and shrimp and scallop stir-fries are de rigueur. So naturally, when I came back to New York earlier this week, I was still on a seafood high. And wanted to continue cooking it both for weekday meals and for sharing with you all on this here blog.
Fermented black beans, if you're not already familiar with them through dishes like mapo tofu or black bean chicken, are very potent and tasty, but definitely not the most attractive ingredient in the world. They come prepackaged in either a plastic bag or a plastic or glass jar. The best way to describe the smell right out of the package is "super funky barnyard". That said, when cooked, they add a wonderful earthiness to Chinese dishes, so that's why we use 'em. However, if you do buy them in plastic, it's best to transfer them to a glass container with a tight lid, to store in the back of the fridge. That way, their lovely funky aroma won't bother anyone and they'll keep for a really long time.