I guess it was probably too much to ask for a dish whose principal qualities are saltiness and blackness to come out nicely in a photo. Despite this, I hope you’ll believe me when I say we were pleasantly surprised by how this stir-fry worked out. For a dish that is usually made with pork spare ribs, I wasn’t entirely sure how this combination of robust vegetables – flat beans and japanese eggplant – coupled with fried tofu, would match the intense earthy saltiness of fermented black beans; but I can recommend it.

This is a dry stir-fry; the sauce is just sticky enough to coat the vegetables but not liquid enough to moisten your rice. Adjust the amount of black beans to your taste: we found 2 tablespoons a bit too much, so I’ll probably halve it next time. Also, I used 2 small red chillies with the seeds removed – next time I’ll keep the seeds in one of them to take the heat up a notch. Hope you enjoy this!

Flat beans and eggplant with salty black beans
Adapted from Delicious

200g fried tofu, cut into squares
250g green flat beans, cut into 5cm pieces
250g japanese eggplant, cut into 1cm thick rounds
1-2 tbsp salted black beans, rinsed well in cold water
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (shaoshing)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 small red chillies, seeded or not to taste
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp each sesame oil and vegetable oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce

Place the black beans into a bowl and roughly mash them a little with a fork. Add in the sugar, rice wine, chilli, ginger, garlic and oyster sauce. Stir to combine.

Heat the oils on medium-high heat in a wok. Add the eggplant, and stir fry till softening and just browned – this will take a few minutes. Add the beans and stir fry for a further couple of minutes. When the beans are almost cooked, add the tofu and the soy sauce. Stir fry again for a minute. Then, stirring continuously, add the black bean mixture and cook for a further 2 minutes, until everything is well coated and the vegetables are just cooked through.

Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Yield: serves 3-4