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Friday, October 1, 2010

The Frugal Pantry: Fermented Black Beans

"Fermented black beans" probably sounds better in another language,* but despite its unappetizing moniker, this Chinese staple (also known as "salted black beans") gives a quick and cheap flavor boost to any stir-fry.

This week we were too busy to shop or plan meals, and in any case we had no energy to cook them. One night we wrapped up work late and wondered what we could quickly make for dinner. We had little in the way of produce except some elderly green beans, onions, garlic, tofu . . . and ginger! The ginger tipped the balance: we would make a stir-fry.

We've learned how to make an all-purpose stir-fry sauce from oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, and chili paste. Still, with our lackluster vegetable lineup, we knew we needed something else. So we reached for the fermented black beans. A couple of tablespoons, quickly mashed with the side of a heavy knife, tossed in with the garlic and ginger at the outset of the stir-frying, made all the difference, lending a flavor that was earthy, pungent, and unmistakably Chinese.

Don't make the mistake many before you have made and substitute canned black beans; you'll end up with something completely different. Fermented black beans are dry and velvety and can be found in any Asian grocery. One bag will last a long time; as far as we can tell, they last forever . . . except in our kitchen.

* Actually, it's douchi, but to our immature minds that is hardly an improvement.

1 comment:

  1. I understand that this is also really healthy, right? Like fermented soybeans? Something in the process...anyways, never tried them straight from the bag like this before. Thanks for sharing!