Ingredients Used in Chinese Cooking:
Chinese Fermented Black Beans and Black Bean Sauce
The names black bean sauce/paste, or fermented black beans may be deceptive to westerners. The beans used are the ubiquitous and ever-versatile soybeans which are fermented, and in the process of fermentation, turn black. At no time are the common turtle black beans used to make this delicious paste.
The original product was tou shih, boiled soybeans, salted and fermented to their inky darkness with Rhizopus mold, and other fungi. Molds are found everywhere in nature and are used commonly with types of cheeses, the blue cheeses of many cultures being prime examples. Penicillin is a beneficial mold.
The paste is made by mixing the blackened soybeans with garlic and other spices. It is salty, and strong in flavor, and is used in discreet amounts to enliven the taste buds. It is easily found in commercial preparations.
Fermented black beans are also available in Asian markets sold in plastic bags and
labeled "salted black beans". After purchasing, fermented black beans should be removed from the plastic bag and put in a glass container with a tight lid. They will keep for months and will continue to flavor your stir-fri dishes. Used throughout China, they are especially valued in Cantonese cooking.
In easy chinese stir-fries, Helen Chen includes several dishes made with black beans. She tells us that her shrimp with black beans recipe is popular as a home cooked meal, but is not served at banquets because "the dark sauce covers the coral-colored shrimp. At home it is eaten with great relish."
In stir-fries, fermented black beans or black bean sauce is generally added to a dish in the final stages of cooking. Using them in steamed dishes is similar.
Fermented soy products are familiar throughout Asia. Soy sauce, miso, tempeh and natto are all fermented products.
Try a few recipes using fermented black bean sauce: