Black bean, egg and mushroom fried rice

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.

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STIR-FRIED RICE NOODLES WITH MINCED PORK AND BLACK BEAN

Really not a lot to say about stir-fries that hasn’t been said before. Using a few pantry staples and whatever vegetables you have on hand, you can whip up something delicious in a matter of minutes. They come in handy especially when, say, you’ve been homebound for a week and are running out of options, and you have scraps of leftover vegetables moping around in the refrigerator begging to be productive in some way.

A new regular in my kitchen that I’ve been using in just about everything that I feel would carry its intense flavour and saltiness – fermented black bean. A little bit goes a long way and the spicy pungency it provides is definitely a game changer in any stir-fry. The next time you make fried rice, add a teaspoon of it to your eggs before you whisk them up and scramble. I tried this neat trick once, and haven’t had it any other way since.

I understand (I do, really) that not every recipe is as blank a canvas as a grilled chicken, but this stir-fry sure is. Add/omit ingredients as you wish and taste taste taste as you go along!

Recipes are not strict rules that you have to play by (stand aside, soufflé), but merely loose parameters that guide you. Believe in your abilities and learn from your mistakes – you will not only have a new pairing combo up your sleeve, but might even chance upon something that you will love that you would not have thought about. This is not a feminist statement, but in my books, the more kitchen empowerment, the better.

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