Chinese black bean has been all the rage in our household for a while now. Known as Douchi in Chinese, they are essentially black soy beans that are heavily salted and fermented and used extensively to flavour everything from stir-fried vegetables and meats, eggs, to rice dishes. These little umami-laden nuggets are salty and sweet in the same bite and impart their gutsy flavour to whatever you choose to pair them with.
Chinese black bean paste, as is obvious, is made by pounding the fermented black beans and making them into a savoury paste. Extra garlic and soy are sometimes added to get the right piquancy and depth of flavour. I prefer the coarsely ground pastes to the black bean ‘sauces’ that you get, and it’s always fun to hunt around for those elusive beans in the dish afterward!
I know black bean has a bad rap in the Chinese takeaway scene. Soggy batter-fried strips of chicken doused in a goopy, almost gelatinous blanket of black sauce that makes any meat or vegetable in it completely indistinguishable. Or it’s a revoltingly sweet red sauce which tastes nothing like any Chinese that I’ve ever had anywhere. Not to mention the greasy noodles or fried rice with so much oil in it, that you wouldn’t actually need a side dish. Which reminds me of a recipe that I came across recently that said “add more oil if you’d like your rice greasier”. What, WHY?
This fried rice is healthy, and makes for a quick week night dinner; you could make it more substantial by throwing in more vegetables into the pot – baby corn, peppers, carrots, and beans work very well here. If you’re looking for a variation to your regular rice dish, this is a pretty good way of upping the ante.
INGREDIENTS : (Serves 3)
1 cup uncooked rice (I used medium-grain, but any kind is fine)
350 grams mushrooms, quartered
4 sprigs spring onions, finely chopped (retain the green parts for garnish)
1” piece of ginger, finely julienned
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp light soy
1 tbsp black bean paste
3 eggs (plus extra for fried eggs on top)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the rice according to packet instructions; lay out the cooked rice on a flat tray, spread it out gently in an even layer and let it cool to room temperature.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok and add the spring onions (the white part), ginger, garlic and chilli. Sauté for a few minutes, before adding the soy, black bean paste, salt, and pepper. Once the sauce starts to lightly bubble at the edges, toss in the mushrooms and cook on a high flame until just wilted and the water from the mushrooms starts to dry up – this shouldn’t take more than a minute.
Move the mushrooms to the sides of the wok, and crack the eggs in the centre; add the sesame oil on the eggs and scramble lightly with a spatula until still slightly runny (you could alternatively omit this step and scramble the eggs in another pan using sesame oil).
Tip the cooled rice into the wok in 2 or 3 batches and toss everything together until well combined. Leave on the heat for 2 minutes undisturbed until it gets slightly crispy at the bottom, about 2 minutes. Stir again, breaking up any new clumps. Check and adjust seasoning. Transfer into bowls, and top with a fried egg and the green parts of the spring onion and serve immediately.