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Fermented and Preserved Ingredients in Chinese Cooking

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Recently we've been talking about the used of Dried Ingredients in Chinese Cooking. Yet there is another category of ingredients that I've recently started exploring that are just as integral to Chinese cooking-fermented and preserved ingredients. (Some ingredients are simply dried, while others are fermented or preserved. Further, some ingredients may be dried and fermented or preserved). In America we seem to place our primary focus on ingredients that are fresh, fresh, fresh. And while the emphasis on freshness is certainly admirable, at the same time we seem to have forgotten the endless possibilities that fermented and preserved ingredients can lend to a wide variety of dishes.

One of my favorite dried ingredients for Chinese style dishes are fermented black beans. I like the salty tang that fermented black beans lend to stir-fries. They seem to accent the flavor of soy while at the same time presenting a hint of exotic smoke.

Fermented black beans are incredibly easy to use. Some people recommend rinsing them in water to shed off some of the salt before adding them to a dish. I actually prefer the flavor of fermented black beans full on--I don't rinse them and simply mash some of the beans with a fork before adding them to the wok with some whole beans.

A very easy dish to make using black beans is a simple stir-fry of chicken garnished with Chinese celery and cashews. To start, I marinate strips of chicken breast in Chinese rice wine, cornstarch, soy sauce and sesame oil. After a quick stir-fry in a hot wok, I add some ginger and garlic, then the mashed and whole fermented black beans. Once the chicken is done, I add diced celery and cashews. (I like to add the celery at the end of the stir-fry so that it stays crisp).

The sauce is simply the same mixture as the chicken marinade-Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and then a cornstarch and water slurry to thicken everything up.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Fermented Black Beans, Chinese Celery and Cashews-

Chicken with Salted Black Beans.JPG

What types of fermented and preserved ingredients do you use in your Chinese dishes?

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I find the depth of flavor from fermented bean pastes fascinating. (also a fan of the fermented black beans in the manner you use them David) I would love to hear about the variations and uses of the bean pastes. I usually just pick up a bottle and play with it but I am probably missing some important things. Fermented bean curd cubes are also a favorite here cooked with greens.

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I like yellow bean paste and chili bean pastes, which I usually put into mapo dofu.

What about pickled mustard greens? Stir-fried with pork, or I used them with some yellow bean paste, fried napa cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms as a baozi stuffing. These ingredients expand savoriness without relying on meat.

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I used to use a garlic press to mash the fermented black beans. It's been a while since I bought any though so I can't remember if I was doing anything to soften them up first. (My garlic press does have one of those gadgets to help clean out the holes though....)


Edited by jaynesb (log)
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I like to steam pork ribs with yellow bean paste (man see with whole beans) and plums preserved in brine.

Fermented mustard greens (mui choi) steamed with beef, fresh mint leaves, and fresh chili peppers.

Sechuan vegetable (ja-choi) steamed with beef.

Ham Ha steamed with leftover crispy pork belly (siu yook). The previously crispy rind now soft, silky, full of flavour mixed with the ham ha. Pour the sauce over fan jiu (crispy rice from the bottom of the rice pot).OMG! :wub:



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