This Cantonese black bean shrimp recipe is a nod to the authentically flavored Cantonese cooking from my memories. When I taste the soft, saltiness of the broth-based black bean sauce, I recall meals I enjoyed in off-the-beaten-path restaurants on Hong Kong Island & in my home town of Sydney as a child & an adult.
Fermented black beans are not the same as you find in Latin American cooking – they’re actually soy beans that have been dried & fermented with salt. The flavor they impart into a recipe has no equal. Find them in Asian markets in cryovac packages. Soak them in a small bowl of water before using them, drain them & they’re ready to go into a recipe. Usually 2 to 3 tablespoons is all you need. They’ve a somewhat pungent smell & as I mentioned they’re salty so they a quick rinse or soak. Once added to a broth or sauce mixture their flavor becomes balanced & well rounded if that makes sense. Some call this “umami”.
There are few food experiences I have enjoyed over the years more than dining at a Chinese restaurant. Not the deep-fried, sticky sweet-sauced stir-fries so common in the states I’ve lived in, in America. I’m talking about simple, well balanced sauces with crunchy veggies, perfectly cooked pieces of meat or seafood, unadorned with batter & thick, syrup. Well-balanced flavors, just like this recipe for Cantonese Black Bean Shrimp.
Apart from this well-balanced flavor of this dish & the memories it stirs for me, I love the simplicity of it: It’s fuss-free, appealing to not only the hurried but also to someone like me who spends a lot of time in the kitchen & abhors fussy food. Serve it simply with some jasmine rice, steamed Napa cabbage & sriracha sauce. Toodles, Lovoni
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- 3 tablespoons fermented black beans*
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- pinch sugar
- 1 tablespoon canola oil (or peanut)
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 20 large shrimp (prawns), peeled & deveined
- 1 bunch green onion, chopped, reserve some for garnish
- Steamed Napa (Chinese) cabbage & steamed jasmine rice, to serve
- Place black beans in a small bowl & cover with water. Let stand for 10 minutes; rinse & drain beans.
- Combine black beans, broth, sauce, sherry, sesame oil, cornstarch, pepper & sugar in a small bowl.
- Heat canola oil in a work or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic & ginger; stir-fry for 30 to 60 seconds until fragrant.
- Add black bean mixture & bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the shrimp & cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are just starting to turn pink.
- Add green onions. Stir-fry until combined & shrimp are just cooked. Serve with cabbage & rice if desired. Serves 4.
- *Also called salted or dried black beans, fermented black beans are not the same as you find in Latin American cooking – they’re actually soy beans that have been dried & fermented with salt.