If you love Chinese food, you may have come across black bean dishes. These dishes are typically cooked with fermented black soybeans, which are completely different from regular black beans.
In this guide, we dive into what Chinese fermented black beans are and how to use them in Chinese dishes.
Moreover, you will learn about health benefits, where to buy, and how to store them. If you are looking to cook black bean dishes and don’t have them, I have also listed some great substitutes you can use and how to make fermented black beans yourself.
What Are Fermented Black Beans?
Fermented black beans are also known as douchi, tochi, or salted black beans.
It is a widely used ingredient in Cantonese cuisine, loved for its rich, umami, and funky flavors. It is made by salting and fermenting the black soybeans, which results in dry and slightly soft salted beans.
What Is The Taste And Smell Of Fermented Black Beans?
Once the black soybeans are fermented, they will have a funky smell and taste. It is typically salty, pungent, umami, and slightly bitter to taste. Since it is dried, it is hard and tough to bite.
However, the beans are chewy and soft when they are soaked and cooked. It is not normally eaten raw or on its own. Fermented black beans are used as a condiment for main dishes or made into sauce or paste.
Are Fermented Black Beans The Same As Regular Black Beans?
Fermented black beans and regular black beans are completely different. You may find canned or dried black beans in the store, but they may not be the fermented type. Regular black beans cannot be used interchangeably with fermented black beans, so they cannot serve as their substitute since they will have different tastes.
Are Fermented Black Beans Healthy?
It is considered a healthy ingredient since it contains several nutrients that are found beneficial for the body. It is rich in potassium and polyphenols, which help lower blood sugar and fight diabetes. You get the antioxidants you need to relieve fatigue and stress and the vitamins for anti-aging.
On top of that, fermented black beans are high in fiber and protein, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system. It also has good bacteria that help promote weight loss and boost the immune system.
However, keep in mind this should not be consumed as the main meal and should only be used as an additional ingredient to the main dish. Moreover, you should only eat this in healthy amounts since fermented foods are generally salty.
How To Use Fermented Black Beans
Fermented black beans are used in many different ways, from being a recipe ingredient to a sauce and paste. It is typically cooked for Chinese stir-fried dishes such as Clams In Black Bean Sauce and Pork Stir-Fry With Black Bean Sauce. Aside from add-on ingredients, it is used to make sauces and pastes, such as Homemade Chinese Black Bean Sauce.
When you have black bean sauce, you can make several black bean sauce recipes such as Fish In Black Bean Sauce, Sichuan Mapo Tofu, and Chicken With Chili Peppers. You can add it to steamed fish or chicken dishes, soups, noodles, and stews. The fermented black beans can be cooked as a whole, roughly chopped, or minced.
If you are to use fermented black beans, you can rinse them in water to clean and reduce their saltiness. However, rinsing in water may also lessen the funky flavors. If you are worried about your salt intake, you can adjust the amount of fermented black beans to eat and reduce the other salty seasonings in your dish, such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, and salt.
Where To Buy Fermented Black Beans
Asian grocery stores or Chinese supermarkets are the best places to buy fermented black beans. Most regular grocery stores don’t have this ingredient unless it has an Asian section with international or Chinese items. It usually comes in plastic bags, bottles, or jars.
Some fermented black beans are sold as salted or with added flavorings. It is usually available in dry and whole beans. Before purchasing it, check the ingredients list to see if there are added ingredients you may or may not like and to make sure it is fermented and not the regular type.
If you can’t find it in the store, try looking at online stores like Amazon. You may try your luck in small Asian businesses or online Asian supermarkets.
How To Store Fermented Black Beans
Remove the fermented black beans from the packaging and store them in a sealed container or jar. It should be kept in a cool dry place away from heat and direct sunlight. You can also keep it in the fridge, which can last up to 6 months or more.
Is There A Fermented Black Beans Substitute?
If you can’t find fermented black beans, the closest substitute is Chinese black bean sauce or paste. These are already made with fermented black beans but with additional seasonings for flavor. For instance, Chinese black bean sauce is made with fermented black beans, oil, garlic, onion, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and oyster sauce.
It is the closest alternative to fermented black beans since the sauce has the funky and salty flavors as well and is commonly used as a topping or condiment for dishes. If you buy the paste, it won’t give you the whole or bits of beans for texture and will only act as a flavoring.
In my opinion, the only best substitute for store-bought fermented black beans is homemade fermented black beans. You can make your own at home with a few ingredients and simple steps. Check the steps below on how to make fermented black beans.
How To Make Homemade Fermented Black Beans
Fermenting black soybeans are actually quite simple and easy. You just need to soak, cook, ferment, and store the beans. The special ingredient that you’ll need to initiate the fermentation process is the culture.
The culture can be powdered starter culture, whey culture, or kombucha, to name a few. Once the fermentation process is done, I suggest using a sealed glass jar container to store your fermented black beans. Using glass jars prevents moisture build-up that can lead to bacteria growth.
Follow these steps to make your own fermented black beans:
- Rinse and soak the dry soybeans with water and salt until soft or for up to 24 hours.
- Then, drain the water and cook the beans with some water until it boils.
- Once it boils, simmer for an hour or less on low heat.
- After boiling, remove the beans and add your chosen culture to the beans.
- Store the beans in a glass jar and seal it. Keep it in a dark place away from direct heat or sunlight for three to four weeks.
- While fermenting, you may release the gas if needed and wash the yellow hairs that grow in the beans.
- After the fermentation process, you can transfer the beans to another clean sealed jar and store them in the refrigerator.