Beef and black bean is SUCH a well-known Chinese restaurant or takeaway dish – as it should be, as it tastes so darn good. But did you know it’s really easy to make your own sauce at home? You could have a batch in as little as 20 minutes. And, once you’ve made homemade black bean sauce, you’ll see how superior it is to the jarred variety you can pick up from your supermarket. Let’s do this…
First off, add ¼ cup peanut oil to your cold wok (we’re keeping the heat off at this point as we don’t want things to burn, so trust). Next, it’s time for the 8 cloves of garlic. You could blend it up in a food processor or pound it using a mortar and pestle, but I like to use a microplane. I find it quick and easy, but do take care the closer your thumb and finger gets to the blade as these bad boys are sharp as, and I didn’t say Black Bean and Finger Shrapnel Sauce now, did I.
Do the same thing with a 4cm piece of peeled ginger to get it nice and fine, then pop the heat on under your wok. Bring the aromatics to a gentle sizzle, then cook them for about a minute. This will help smooth out the flavour and get rid of any harshness that raw garlic has.
Now it’s time for the black beans. You want to head to your Asian grocer and look for these – they’re typically sold in packets or cans. When you open the packet, you’ll see that these beans look really dry, but don’t worry. Once they’re added to the liquid, they’ll reconstitute and get lovely and soft and sticky.
Add ½ cup salted fermented black beans to your wok and mix them through the garlic and ginger until everything is combined.
After that, it’s time for the liquids. Add in your water, followed by 2 tbsp Chinese Shaoxing cooking wine. I’ve found that store-bought versions of black bean sauce don’t seem to include the Shaoxing wine, but I think it adds a lovely extra layer of flavour and makes it all the more special. You can pick this ingredient up at most supermarkets these days, otherwise look online or at your local Asian grocery store. However, if you’d rather skip the addition of alcohol altogether, then you could substitute it with some apple juice. This will give you a similar note of floral fragrance.
After that, it’s 1 tbsp of soy sauce for seasoning, and 1 tbsp of sugar to bring some balance to everything.
Bring your sauce to a gentle simmer, then let it do its thing for about 12–15 minutes, by which time most of the liquid should have evaporated. Your beans should be looking lovely and sticky and glossy by now. To amp up that gloss even more, add 1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 1 tbsp of water, stir it through and cook for another minute or so.
Once you’re done, transfer it to a clean jar. This will keep in the fridge for about a month.
The best way to use homemade black bean sauce is in the famous stir-fry, of course: Beef & Black Bean Stir-Fry. Try serving the tender beef, crunchy vegies and savoury upon savoury deliciousness as is, or with steamed rice or noodles.
Top tip: it’s also delicious dropped on top of crispy fried eggs in the morning! I love the umami flavours with a creamy, runny egg yolk – it has to be tried to be believed.
You could also try wok-frying some fresh green beans and then finishing them off with a little black bean sauce. Make a batch, experiment with ways to use it… and don’t forget to share your favourite ways!