China: Black bean chicken

China: Black Bean Chicken

China Black Bean ChickenFor the first post in my 2016 challenge the theme is black beans, salted fermented black beans to be precise. This post is actually really three recipes, although one I have made before, so technically I’m not learning all new recipes here. Anyway, today’s post includes how we got on with black bean chicken, black bean green beans and chilli sweetcorn.

The key ingredient here that we were attempting to understand a bit more about how to use was fermented black beans, used as flavouring in a lot of Chinese cuisine. These beans have been used in China for centuries, with some of the oldest evidence for using fermented soy beans dating back to 165 BC in a Han Tomb at Mawangdui in South Central China (excavated in 1972). The small black beans are usually poached and fermented in salt, with just a small amount used in dishes for seasoning, often alongside garlic and chillis.

The first recipe for the main part of the meal is black bean chicken, inspired by the recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop in Every Grain of Rice. A simple recipe, which like many in her book, uses meat but works on the principle that a small amount goes a long way. Cooked in a wok it doesn’t take long to make at all.

Black bean chicken and rice


For marinade:

  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wingChina Black Bean Chicken
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 1/2tsp potato flour
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce.

Main dish:

  • 225g chicken cut into 2-3cm pieces
  • 1 green pepper cut into 2-3cm squares
  • 3 tbsp groundnut oil (or other flavourless cooking oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • Equivalent amount of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp fermented black beans
  • 1-2 tsp red chilli flakes (depending on taste)
  • Salt for seasoning
  • 2 tbsp spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  1. Put marinade ingredients into a bowl and add chicken pieces.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok, then add the peppers for around 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
  3. Reheat wok, add the remainder of the oil, and then the marinated chicken and cook until the chicken is more or less cooked.
  4. Then add garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds.
  5. Add black beans and stir a few times.
  6. Return peppers to pan and add chilli flakes.
  7. Stir fry until chicken is cooked through.
  8. Season with salt to taste. Then stir in spring onions.
  9. Turn off the heat, and add sesame oil.

China Black Bean ChickenOverall this recipe doesn’t take very long to make, like a lot of wok based stir fry dishes. For these dishes it’s important to have the ingredients you need prepared as needed so you can add them to the wok, often in quick succession (and in doing so ensuring things don’t get burnt).

The recipe suggested serving this with rice and a couple of side dishes so we also opted to make two other dishes, along with some boiled rice.

Black green beans

This recipe was adapted from a recipe in a blog post from Katie Webster and her food blog Healthy Seasonal recipes, omitting the suggested mushrooms and adjusting the ingredient proportions.

China Black Bean ChickenIngredients:

  • 150g green beans
  • 1 tsp groundnut oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of black beans
  • Pinch ground white pepper
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  1. Boil green beans for around 3-4 minutes (or steam them if you prefer).
  2. In a separate frying pan, heat the oil and add the garlic, chilli flakes for around 2 minutes.
  3. Add black beans, pepper and salt.
  4. Add the green beans and Shaoxing rice wine until the beans are heated through.

Chilli sweetcorn

The final recipe was adapted from the Exploring China book by Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang.


  • 275g sweetcorn (fresh or frozen)China Black Bean Chicken
  • 1 ½ tbs groundnut oil
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 2 red chillis, finely chopped and deseeded if preferred
  • 50 ml vegetable stock
  1. Cover sweetcorn in boiling water for around 1 minute.
  2. Heat a wok or frying pan and add the oil salt, corn and chillis and stir fry for one minute.
  3. Add the pepper, sugar and stock and cook for a further 3 minutes. (The original recipe used a tsp of sugar here but I have omitted as I find it sweet enough, but you might want to try it sometime anyway).

China Black Bean Chicken

When looking into which black bean dishes to cook this week I also came across a couple of other, and somewhat similar dishes I came across that look good too include:

So, that’s the first week in my 2016 project to cook foods from around the world. Three dishes (plus boiled rice) taking inspiration from China.  So that’s China ticked off the list of countries tried this year, and my first flag on the map.

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