Chinese Black Bean Sauce 蒜蓉豆豉醬
By Ellen L. Published: 2016-03-16
Do you know what these rather plain looking beans are? These humble little beans are the Chinese fermented black soybeans, known also as Douchi, or 豆豉. These black beans are used for the making of that ubiquitous Chinese sauce that is used in all kinds of Chinese dishes, be it pork, beef, or seafood, the Chinese Black Bean Sauce, or 蒜蓉豆豉醬. As I was saying in our previous post about Chinese Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce, I didn't used to be a fan of this sauce, finding it rather overpowering and creating a 'sameness' in each dish in which it was used. Until, of course, the day that my 老公 decided to start making his own Chinese Black Bean Sauce, that is. It turns out that homemade Chinese Black Bean Sauce is soooooo much better than canned or what you get in restaurants, a delightfully unique, multi-layered, intriguingly flavored sauce that will complement whatever dish you decide to pair it with!
|A bag of Fermented Black Beans, or Douchi 豆豉|
The bean used is actually a black soybean, as opposed to the white soybean which is used for for the other kinds of yellow to brown colored Chinese bean sauces that can be found. The black soybean is fermented to become Douchi 豆豉 and that is your first clue to its culinary yumminess. So many of the great flavor superstars of the food world are fermented! Like parmesan cheese, preserved bean curd 腐乳, shrimp paste fish sauce 蝦醬, miso, crème fraîche, etc...
After fermentation the bean is quite pungent with a distinct sharp, intensely beany, salty, slightly bitter and sweet taste. Not something that tastes great all by itself, necessarily. But just like fish sauce and anchovies, these are foods that, when tasted on their own are way too pungent and intense and, let's be honest, almost off-putting. But...once you add them to your cooking, wow! Flavor intensifiers that lift up the dish at least a couple of levels!
There are many ways to play around with your own homemade Chinese black bean sauce, adding or subtracting spices, seasonings or chillies to your liking. The only things you should not change are the black bean and the garlic, these two form the base of this fantastic sauce. One key thing to remember is to use equal or more amount of garlic to the black bean. Otherwise the black bean tends to be too pungent in the final sauce.
My 老公's secret weapon in his amazing super delicious black bean recipe is the dried tangerine peel, or Chenpi 陳皮, which you can find at your local wet market or specialty Asian grocer. I love the taste of dried tangerine, and we use it in all kinds of dishes like the sweet Red Bean Dessert Soup 紅豆沙 or the savory Abalone Steamed with Tangerine Peel 果皮蒸鮑魚. The dried tangerine peel adds a aged citrusy note that is just absolutely divine and lifts the black bean sauce, at least to me, to whole new saucilicious levels.
Mince and dice your garlic and dried tangerine peel, then comes the fun part. Throw together everything and start to mash all together. It's important to really mix and mash everything thoroughly so that all the flavors come together and marry into saucy perfection. Don't use any machines to do this part, you don't want a puree by any means, you want to keep it a lovely texture. I use the end of one of my rolling pins, or you could use a mortar and pestle if you have one.
|Chinese Black Bean Sauce steamed with fresh fish|
Chinese Black Bean Sauce Recipe 豆豉醬
(makes approx 3 tbsp of sauce)
1 tbsp chinese fermented black beans
1 tbsp garlic
1 piece dried tangerine peel, Chenpi 陳皮 (optional)
1/2 tsp Shao Hsing rice wine
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp oil
Soak the dried tangerine peel in room temp. water for 15 mins or until soft enough to slice, then mince finely. Also finely mince the garlic. Put all ingredients into mixing bowl and mash together by hand until very thoroughly mixed yet still some texture. Add more oil as needed to make a moist, spreadable paste. Use black bean sauce immediately as directed in your recipe.
More Saucy Surprises at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Chilled Bigeye Fish - Chiu Chow Style 潮州凍大眼雞
Boiled Fresh Octopus 白灼新鮮八爪魚
Chinese Pan Fried Fish with Sauce 煎紅衫魚
Chinese Chilled Crab with Vinegar Dip 凍花蟹
Macanese Style Portuguese Curry Chicken 葡國雞
Braised Soy Sauce Chicken Wings & Potato 土豆燒雞翅