Get ready to drool over this extremely fragrant and commonly used ingredient in Chinese food. I call it by its directly translated name, “bean sauce” (豆瓣酱), but it is also referred to as “Chile Bean Sauce” which you’ll notice in the first photo. The regular flavor is not spicy at all, rather it puts a fermented, savory soy bean flavor in your dish. There are a variety of bean sauces available at your local Asian market. If you see one with writing on it that looks completely Greek (or Chinese) to you, make sure to take clues from the photo on the label. The red hot chiles (peppers) are a sign you’ve found the spicy version!
One type of cooking that has always worried me is “steamed” anything! I know white rice is steamed, but how do I actually steam food without another special machine. If you are like me, read about using your rice cooker as a steamer for dishes first, then come back and follow these easy steps.
PREP: Finely mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and put them aside. Keep bottles of sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce handy. Salt too. (See image below) Also, use a steamer or your rice cooker.
1~ Slice up the eggplant in half, then into 1/2″ thick strips-lengthwise. This can be altered as you do the recipe more often and develop a preference.
2~ With your cooker/steamer warmed up, place the raw, sliced eggplant strips into the steaming tray. Let them steam for 5-10 minutes.
3~ Pull tray out of steamer carefully… let the tray sit on a cooling rack or kitchen counter. Sprinkle salt over them. After a minute, start pulling the eggplant into strings with chop sticks or a fork. You’ll notice that water is pulled out of the eggplant by the salt.
4~ After draining the water out, you’ll see the resulting mushy stuff that is in the image below. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before adding about a tablespoon of vinegar, a teaspoon of sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and the minced garlic. Mix completely.
* This dish is best served cool. You should be able to taste the fragrant sesame with a twang of vinegar.
After months of anticipation, my university leader came over to bestow on me some Chinese cooking secrets again! I still have the savory taste of black beans and ocean fish in my mouth while typing this post. Without further ado, let’s get down to the EASY steps of making this awesome dish.
PREP: Your fish should be gutted and cleaned off. Then, you’ll need to lightly salt them before frying. Just a couple pinches on each side should do the trick. Also, cut up scallions, coriander, or whatever small planty flavorings you have around. (prep some Chinese Black Beans for a savory addition) Don’t forget some slices of fresh ginger, which is used in a lot of the cooking recipes on Asian Living.
1~ In a wok or pan, let a small amount of oil simmer for a short time. Put your fish in when its hot. Don’t move the fish around! You need to let them cook like this for a couple minutes.
2~ When its time to turn them over, you can slide them with a spatula. At this point, put the ginger slices between the fish and let cook. Don’t shift the fish around.
3~ Shortly after, you can put the scallions, coriander, black beans, and other planty flavorings into the oil beneath the fish. (See image left) At this point, you could add a couple splashes of soy sauce.
4~ As a final touch, my university leader suggested putting the serving dish on top of the whole thing for a few seconds. (See image below) This is a method that cleans your dish prior to putting food on it; A habit she developed many years ago…
That’s it! Serve this fish with an easy dish of greens and white rice. Enjoy!
The “Shu Ji” of my university here in China suggested the best brand for both Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil. Because she is the most powerful person in this highly respected university (Jinan Daxue) I’m willing to
take her advice.
Lee Kum Kee, which is a Cantonese translation of 李锦记, or in Mandarin “Li Jin Ji”. You can find it at your local Asian market or perhaps online. I’ll find a shop somewhere online and link it here later.
By the way, I’ve NEVER seen La Choy brand used in China. It’s probably just an American thing now… I know it wasn’t that yummy at stir fry night when I was growing up… Believe me, the brands of your seasoning matter.
2~ Throw in a few slices of garlic (don’t waste your time by mincing), also add 1 or 2 slices of skinned ginger. Let them brown slightly.
3~ Throw in chopped up, or ripped apart, pieces of cabbage. Half a head for 1-2 people. Full head for 2+ people. Cover pan while you get Soy Sauce ready.
4~ Pour in soy sauce. Just enough to give each leaf a coating. Cover and cook a few minutes. Shovel around in the pan so that everything gets attention from your ingredients.
5~ When leaves are smaller and stalks are looking browner (from soy sauce), turn off heat. Use spatula to shovel out the cabbage from the sauce into a serving dish. Put it on the table and get the next dish started!
* If the dish is too salty, add some water to smooth out the impact of the soy sauce.