Chinese black beans are fermented soybeans. According to the late Barbara Tropp, an American chef and expert on Chinese cuisine, fermented black beans are the oldest recorded soyfood. It is the ancestor of miso and soy sauce. They are used as a salty seasoning in stir fries or mild steamed dishes, where they add a healthy dose of umami . You can find them at Asian grocery stores. They are not common at supermarkets. I’ve only found black bean sauce (a garlic and black bean premixed combination) at even well-stocked supermarkets. Chinese black beans keep indefinitely. If you buy a small bag, you won’t have to buy them again for a very long time. 🙂
This dish can also be made with medium shrimp or bay scallops. I used thawed frozen fish chunks from Trader Joe’s. The fish chunks come in 1 pound packages and are usually Pacific Cod. This is a sustainable fish harvested in Alaska. They are very reasonably priced.
Chinese Black Bean Fish with Broccoli
½ cup reduced sodium chicken stock
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt plus more for seasoning broccoli
1 pound of broccoli stems, cut into ⅛” thick slices
1 pound fish chunks, patted dry
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1″ piece of ginger, grated or minced
1 ½ Tablespoons Chinese fermented black beans, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ fresh Jalapeno chile, cut into slices crosswise
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
Stir together the chicken stock, rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.
Steam broccoli stems for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain and pat dry. Place in a warmed serving dish, season with salt, and cover to keep warm.
Heat a wok over high heat, until a drop of water vaporizes instantly. Add the oil and swirl around. Add the ginger and quickly stir around. Add black beans, garlic, and Jalapeno. Stir fry 1 minute. Add fish chunks and spread out in one layer. Cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Continue cooking, now stirring until fish turns translucent, about another minute. Stir the broth mixture to redissolve the cornstarch and pour into the wok. Bring to a boil and stir. When the sauce thickens, remove from the heat, drizzle on sesame oil, and stir. Pour everything over the broccoli stems and serve immediately with rice.
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet, February 2006.