Proper black bean sauce


Fermented black beans. They’re interesting looking. And man are they pungent. And if you dont read the bit in the recipe where it says to soak them and then mash them and instead give them a cursory rinse and a poke with a fork you end up with some chunky bits of bean which are very salty, a little bit sour and a little bit bitter and not entirely pleasant.  So don’t do that. Do this instead.

First, soak your beans. For at least five minutes while you get everything else ready.


Garlic, chilli and ginger are the base for most good stir fries. Two garlic cloves, 1 red chilli and about an inch long lump of ginger will do. I use a lot more ginger now I’ve realised grating it is the easiest way to get it fine enough (I may have mentioned my knife skills leave something to be desired).You also need 250ml of stock (I always use a cube which irritatingly makes twice as much but it’s handy to have a bit spare). A tablespoon of cornflour thickens the sauce and this can be mixed with the stock beforehand.

This recipe was originally a sauce for mushrooms (it’s from Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy) but we went for prawns and cabbage. We had the cabbage left over from okomiyaki – the smallest cabbage the greengrocers had weighed 1.5 kg. That’s a lot of cabbage. But luckily we have discovered that, shredded and stir-fried, cabbage is quite sweet and crunchy and not at all cabbagey. There’s still half of it left though.

Once you’ve get everything ready, drain the  your beans and mash them. Quite a lot.


Then fry the chilli, garlic and ginger for a second and throw in the beans and sizzle them for another few seconds. The prawns and veg went in next, cooked until the prawns were pink. Then throw in the stock, which bubbles and thickens almost straight away, and sprinkle over some light soy sauce (light soy sauce is thinner than dark and actually saltier. Dark is aged for longer and is used for colour and richness).

I mixed in some cooked noodles and added spring onions for freshness. While not the greatest picture (it was after work, I was hungry), this is like the ur-takeaway. Properly cooked, the black beans make a deeply tasty sauce with just a hint of the edge that chewing on a whole bean gets you. Now I’ve figured these out, next time, it’s got to be the classic combo of beef and green peppers and a bit of egg fried rice on the side.



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