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F is for fermented black beans

Once I opened the packet and got my first whiff of fermented black beans, my hopes for making something edible, let alone pleasant with them, went through the floor.

Pungent doesn't quite cover it - these beans reek. You could be standing a foot away from them and they'd still be bothering your nose. And it's not an altogether welcome nasal assault, either.

You're drooling already, right? What do you mean, no?!

Still, I'd bought a bag of them, and I was determined to use it up. My first attempt to make the best of a bad bean was this recipe on the Guardian for runner beans with black beans and chilli.

Perhaps it wasn't the smartest choice of recipes, given I don't really eat runner beans, let alone their fermented cousins.

Here's the end result:

You know what? This one totally took me by surprise. Not only did I wonder why I don't eat runner beans more often, I was pleasantly wrongfooted by the black beans too.

Sure, the beans were pungent, but you only put in a tiny amount of them, and they act more like a seasoning than the main heft of the dish.

Having been quietly impressed, I took the fermented black beans out for another spin, this time on a Channel 4 recipe for Beef in fragrant black bean sauce, subbing actual beef for the Redwood equivalent  (fine, but not a staple in my fridge.)

Here's the result:

More umami off the beans, more lovely numbing heat off the chilli (if you make this, don't be tempted to leave out the pickled chilli - it was just fantastic) and, after restraining my natural temptation to bury everything under an oil slick of soy, massively loved the interesting flavours going on.

I didn't expect to like these beans as much as I did and I'm now looking for recipes I can use them in again.  Homemade ma po tofu here I come!

(Side note: I've just learnt through the comments that I had Capcha turned on. I didn't know that, and have now turned it off. Capcha on comments really winds me up - apologies for inflicting it on you, dear commenters! Anyway, that should be off now - thanks to Veganosaurus for pointing it out!)

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  1. I've never used fermented black beans and I have to say the small is probably enough to put me off ever using them but it is so good that you were able to make two good dishes with them and be surprised!

    Also, captcha is annoying but it never seemed to bother too many vegan bloggers but I know book bloggers hate it so I only recently turned it off too (I used to get spammy comments on the food blog so I hope they don't return!)

  2. Hi Joey! You won the Sweetbird/Zuma competition over at veganmofo.com! Yay! You didn't leave an e-mail address and there's no contact button on your blog so please e-mail us with your address details to veganmofoblog@gmail.com asap. Thanks, Jojo & The VeganMoFo Team

  3. Haha! Way to describe those beans. Glad you were able to overcome the gut-wretching reek. They've always interested me. Do you keep them in a pantry or the refrigerator?

    1. They're in the pantry - in a very firmly shut tub!

  4. We always have a jar of fermented black beans in the fridge. I'm glad you got past the smell and tried them. You can rinse them before using to make them milder. We mostly use them when making Chinese food. Have you also tried stinky tofu? :)

    I was interested to see the runner beans because I recently passed some up at the farmers market since they were so huge I was worried they would be fibrous.

  5. Boy are you brave! I think I might have given up the idea of using Fermented Beans the second I got a wiff of them, Glad they weren't a let down.

  6. Hmm, fermented black beans sound really interesting...although a bit scary! I'd be worried to put something that smelly in my food, but it sounds like it turned out really well! :) I'm curious to try them now!

  7. I've never cooked with them, not sure if I could get past the smell either. I'll stick with jarred black bean sauce.


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