For those of you who know what this is, you already know the wonders it does for your Asian-inspired dishes. You’ll also be happy to know how incredibly quick and easy it is to make yourself (all of 15 minutes). PLUS, it tastes even better than store-bought stuff AND you know exactly what’s in it…and what isn’t!
For those of you who have no idea what this stuff is, you’ve now discovered a grand secret to making some of the best Chinese food on the planet!
So let’s get right down to it.
What is Black Bean Sauce?
Let’s begin with the central ingredient: Fermented black beans. No, they’re not your typical black beans, aka turtle beans, that you find in dishes like Black Beans & Rice or in South American cuisine. (Yes, I have seen several well-intentioned recipes online calling for regular black beans.) No, these black beans are actually black soybeans. These fermented black soybeans, called douchi in Chinese, are created through a process of boiling the beans, then inoculating them with a special mold spore (commonly aspergillus oryzae) as they dry in the sun. Then they’re typically either stored dry or in brine. This same mold variety is used in miso and soy sauce which are also both fermented products.
You can find fermented black beans in well-stocked Asian grocery stores or you can buy them online.
Because of their strong flavor, fermented black beans are frequently paired with other strong flavors like, most commonly garlic and also chilies for heat. Fermented black beans are most widely used to make Black Bean Sauce, also referred to as Black Bean Paste and Black Bean & Garlic Sauce. Black bean sauce is an important and popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine, particularly Cantonese and Sichuan cooking. It’s as common as an everyday condiment as ketchup is here.
Sharp, pungent, salty and spicy with a hint of sweet, black bean sauce contributes a flavor to Chinese food like no other. And a little goes a very long way, so use sparingly.
So now that we’ve established what black bean paste is, the next question arises:
How Do You Use Black Bean Sauce?
The sky is the limit!
Some popular ways of using it include:
- Fried rice
- Eggs and omelettes
- Chinese long beans or green beans
- Fish, scallops, clams and shrimp
- Chinese noodle dishes
- Chicken dishes
- Beef dishes
- Asian eggplant dishes
- Slathered on pork spareribs and then steamed, grilled or roasted
- On vegetables such as bok choy or broccoli
- Asian wraps
- Asian-style coleslaw
I love including it in the base for most any stir-fry. Just select your protein, throw in some veggies, and stir in the black bean sauce.
Black bean sauce is used any time you want to add a unique and powerfully delicious flavor boost to your dishes along with a punch of umami.
Here are just a few recipes that you can take to the next level by adding 2-3 teaspoons of this black bean sauce:
Ready to make some Chinese Black Bean Sauce?
Let’s get started!
Making your own Chinese black bean paste takes all of 10 minutes. As long as you have the fermented black beans, the rest of the ingredients are common staples and easy to find. I got my fermented black beans from Hoosier Hill Farm.
Huge quantity and a good price. They’ll keep for a long time, several months, and you can also freeze them in ziplock bags and they’ll last even longer.
Place the fermented black beans in a small bowl, cover with water and soak for an hour or so. Then rinse and drain them.
Mash the beans up with a fork and set them aside.
Finely mince the garlic, ginger and green onions.
Heat the oil in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and cook the garlic and ginger for a minute or two until softened and very fragrant. Add the green onions and cook for another minute.
Add the mashed fermented black beans and cook for another minute.
Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cornstarch, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the liquid has been reduced by half.
Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for another minute or until thickened.
Let the Chinese Black Bean Paste (or Chinese Black Bean Sauce) cool and then store it in the fridge in an airtight container, preferably a glass jar, for at least 2 weeks.
- 3 tablespoons fermented black beans, soaked in water about an hour then rinsed and drained (if you prefer a stronger and saltier flavor, use more beans)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- ½ to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce or sambal oelek, for heat (optional)
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- Mash soaked and drained fermented black beans with a fork and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two until softened and very fragrant. Add the green onions and cook for another minute. Add the mashed beans and cook for another minute.
- Add all remaining ingredients, except for the cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 10-12 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for another minute or until thickened.
- Let the black bean sauce cool and store in an airtight container (preferably glass). Will keep for at least 2 weeks.