Food & Drink

Asian markets carry fermented beans

Q. I have come across a number of Chinese recipes that call for fermented black beans. Where I can find these?

Fermented black beans are a seasoning agent in Chinese cuisines. As the name suggests, they're made by salting soybeans and allowing them to ferment. The resulting beans are dry, and a little mushy.

They're very strongly flavored, so if you're not used to them, you should use them sparingly at first. That isn't to say you should leave them out – the flavor is impossible to get with any other ingredient, and it's delicious.

Fermented black beans are principally used in sauces, where the beans are usually mashed up and reconstituted with a liquid, usually stock, broth or water.

You also can make a condiment by mashing them with soy sauce and garlic. This is sold in Asian markets as black bean paste. Don't use the paste for sauces; the salt content will be way too high.

You also shouldn't eat them out of the bag – just trust me on this one.

Fermented black beans are available at almost all Asian markets. I go to Overseas Market on South Boulevard, but both markets at Asian Corner Mall on North Tryon Street also carry them.