I was recently given a jar of fermented black beans as a gift. The first thing I asked is, How do I use this thing?  Then I discovered it is very common in Chinese cuisine, and it’s an item found  in Asian stores.  I also learned that, in cooking, it should be used rather sparingly. Its not like opening a can of beans and adding it to your stew. A little bit goes a long way. The recipe I tried it with is stir-fried shrimp.

The dish is easy to cook and calls for the usual ingredients found in Cantonese dishes: soy sauce, sesame oil, bok choi (or other cabbage, if desired), ginger, and scallions. I decided to give it a sweet and sour affect by adding honey to the mix. The result is given below. Served over steamed rice, or, if you like, lo mein noodles, it’s delicious.


2 tablespoons fermented black beans
2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry
2 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound bok choi, trimmed, washed and dried (can use regular cabbage)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 cup minced scallions

1. Soak black beans in wine or sherry. In a large bowl, marinate shrimp in 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sliced garlic, salt and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Separate bok choi leaves from stems. Chop stems into 1-inch pieces, and chop leaves roughly.
3. Preheat a wok, large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Raise heat to high, and when it begins to smoke, add minced garlic and immediately add shrimp with its marinade. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon shrimp out of wok into a plate and set aside.
4. Add remaining tablespoon peanut oil to wok and, when it smokes, add ginger and bok choi. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes.
5. Add shrimp to wok. Stir in black beans and their liquid, scallions, and remaining honey and soy sauce. Cook for 1 minutes. Turn off heat, drizzle remaining sesame oil on top, and serve.  
    Yield: 4 servings.