Fermented black beans, while not as ubiquitous in Chinese cooking as soy sauce, are a worthy pantry staple for any Chinese cooking aficionado. These little soybeans, packed and fermented in salt, give a pungent dimension to your stir-fry sauces. You may have encountered them before in Cantonese black bean spare ribs (usually served at dim sum) or Sichuan dishes like mapo tofu or twice-cooked pork. Just a tiny amount can add a big whopping amount of umani to your everyday stir-fry.
Yesterday I stir-fried some chicken with the fermented black beans and a little chili oil, a landlubber’s take on the Cantonese shrimp in black bean sauce I’ve eaten many times over. You can find these little beans at any Chinese grocery store, packed in plastic. Before using, rinse them in water or rice wine to get rid of excess grit. I store my black beans in the fridge in a little plastic container, but I know tons of cooks who keep them in cabinets; with tons of salt and no moisture, bacterial growth is minimal.
Do you cooked with fermented black beans, and if so, what’s your favorite dish to make with them?
Spicy Black Bean Chicken
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 lb chicken breast, diced
- 1 tablespoon yellow rice wine (preferably Shaoxing)
- 2 leeks, white parts thinly sliced
- 1 piece ginger, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon hot chili oil
- 2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
- White rice for serving
1. In a wok, heat peanut oil until just smoking. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until both sides are just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Deglaze wok with a splash of rice wine.
2. Add leeks, ginger, and hot chili oil; and stir-fry for another minute. Add fermented black bean. Stir in soy sauce, water, and rice vinegar to coat chicken. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately with white rice.