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fooey

Black Beans, Salted and fermented

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I bought a package of salted black beans when I was at the Asian market yesterday.

When I have them, I can never figure out what to put them in. When I don't, I see ten recipes cross my screen that I want to make. Odd that.

Ingredients on the package say "salt, black beans", so I'm guessing not fermented black beans, just salted?

I need to dispatch a couple of pork loins soon, so ideas with pork would be great.

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I would guess that they were in fact fermented---the salt keeps the bad bacteria out and lets the good ones (some form of Lactobacillus, I think) stay.

Rinsed and used in the base of a stir-fried dish is always good. A tablespoon for a pound or so of main ingredient (chicken, tofu). I've used them in marinades for grilled meats, as well.

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One way you could think of them is as "chinese capers". Use where ever you want that little hit of salt & piquancy.

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The first thing I do is transfer them to a glass jar with a tight lid. They will last pretty much forever if they are decent to begin with. I pitched a jar that was 12 or more years old when I moved only because of space considerations- they still smelled and felt good. Decent to me means that they are pliable versus hard as pellets, and have a pungent yet pleasing odor. Some suggest rinsing or soaking them to remove excess saltiness. I taste one (over the sink for ejection purposes) to give me an idea about the salt level. A simple pork stir fry with garlic, ginger, and soy plus some chopped up beans sounds like a plan to me. Just watch the salt. I like some bitter greens either in the stir fry or alongside. You mentioned pork loin which I usually find a bit lean for stir fry. You could do the greens with the classic soy, garlic ginger, black bean and then serve the pork prepped with a quick sear & oven finish on top letting the juices mingle. I like the addition of shreds of green onion to finish it either way. You could even make a scallion, ginger, black bean oil to drizzle over the top of the roasted loin and simply steamed greens.

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I've always considered salted black beans to be the same as fermented black beans. My family chopped up a package of salted black beans, put 'em in a jar, covered them with peanut oil, and kept the jar in the fridge until all the beans were used up. Whenever a dish called for fermented black beans, we spooned out what we needed and dumped it in the wok. Very easy. My parents chopped up those beans with two big ol' cleavers. I use a Cuisinart. I discovered there can be one or two little pebbles mixed in with those beans, and if you put a stone in your Cuisinart it can catch on the blade and leave a big scratch all around the container. So check the beans for little rocks first.

When you're done with those pork loins--I've always liked Joyce Jue's recipe for Steamed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce:

http://www.massrecipes.com/recipes/99/11/salmonsteakswblackbeansau133419.html

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I've done something similar to that steamed salmon recipe, only instead of salmon steaks, I put a black bean/shredded ginger/shredded scallion mixture over and around a whole tilapia (scaled/cleaned/gutted, head and tail still on). Cut three deep crosswise gashes in each side of the fish; shove a bunch of the mixture in the gashes, a bunch of the rest in the cavity, and scatter the rest on top. Steam until your fishy is done, and enjoy. In fact, I think the ginger/black beans/scallions combo would work pretty well on any fish, whole, steaked, or filleted.

(I've not ever bothered soaking/rinsing the black beans--I like 'em pungent. And I'd use Shaoxing wine instead of dry vermouth, but the vermouth is probably a substitution for those who don't have a well-stocked Asian grocery available to them.)

I also like to put salted black beans in Ma Po Tofu. Plays really well with the layers of Szechuan peppercorn/dried red chile tingle/burn.

Storage: I tend to just shove the opened package in a ziploc bag, press out the excess air, seal it up, and put it in a cool dark cupboard. They seem to be immortal and indestructible. :laugh:

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Another preparation I enjoy is a stir fry of bitter melon with pork or beef and black beans. I like the way the bitter of the melon plays with the pungency of the black bean sauce.

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I still haven't defrosted the loins, but want to thank everyone above for the ideas.

I'm glad I posted, as I would have never thought of them as "Asian capers". I would have used the whole bag. :laugh:

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Also, salted black beans work unreasonably well with shellfish. Clams, Oysters, Cockles & the like. It's very common to see this preparation in Chinese restaurants.

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They make a nice difference when a few are smashed up and mixed into fried rice during cooking.

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I finally got around to cooking out of Ross Dobson's Chinatown a few weeks ago, and one of the first dishes I made was this Eggplant, Cumin and Black Bean salad. It was great, although it could hold back a bit more on the black beans. I'd bought black beans for recipes from the Fuschia Dunlop cookbooks, and was happy to find some other uses for them.

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Hopefully this is an interesting note; I was at a supermarket here in Beijing the other day and noticed that they had two kinds of beans, one especially for fish. I'm guessing that the fish ones are less salty?

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I'm guessing that the fish ones are less salty?

Or they just want you to buy two different bags.

I've noticed that with things like "vinegar for seafood". I'm sure it's exactly the same as the other white vinegar.

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