Beef with black bean sauce

This was originally a guest post of mine on Meltem Daysal’s blog. Before we get started we put on some rice.


Here you see our rice cooker, but of course a pot on the stove will do as well. Pandan rice is nice for this dish. Make sure you wash the rice, then put it into the rice cooker and or the pot and boil it. If you use a stove make sure you use enough water, then bring it to the boil, let it boil for a bit and then don’t open the lid but let it stand for 15 or so minutes.

I’m a big fan of exploring traditional dishes and really trying to get to the idea of the dish. The most important ingredient for our dish today are black beans. You can get them in any Asia store.


These are actually fermented and salted soy beans called Douchi (豆豉). It’s apparently the oldest known food made from soy beans. They have a salty taste that reminds me a bit of bacon, so no wonder steamed salmon with black bean sauce is so tasty. Soak them in not too much warm water. If you have time, then it’s a good idea to do this some 10 or so minutes before you start cooking.

Today we’re going to do a stir fry. Asian dishes don’t use a whole lot of meat. For two persons a nice steak will do here. Slice it thinly against the grain.


I really like to use a super sharp knife, it’s just so much fun to cut with it. Then we put some regular oil into a pan, ours is not too big and looks a bit like a wok, and fry the meat. I put my stove on the highest temperature. Unless the meat is of super high quality some water will come out, wait until it’s gone and the meat is a bit brown, but don’t leave it in there too long. Otherwise you kill the taste. This took about two to four minutes. While we handle the pan to turn the meat we cut some pepper, garlic and ginger.

Next put in the garlic, ginger and pepper. Add the soaked black beans and some of the liquid. Next, we add some soy sauce, something like four tablespoons, and a bit less rice wine. Make sure you don’t use Japanese soy sauce. I took the light Chinese one. You can get it, together with the rice wine, in any Asia store. Finally, add some sugar and a bit of cornstarch.


The latter will make the sauce some thicker, which is a nice texture for this dish. That’s by the way something interesting I didn’t realize for a long time. A lot of the taste is about texture anyways. Leave it on the stove until the sauce thickens. The beans will dissolve and everything will become a creamy, tasty, salty sauce, with a nice tone of ginger and garlic.

I put everything into a bowl and that’s it—enjoy!


About kleintob

Tobias Klein is an Associate Professor at Tilburg University. He is an economist by training and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Mannheim, Germany. Before that he visited the University of California at Berkeley Ph.D. program and the Ph.D. program at University College London, respectively for a year. He is passionate about economics, politics, food, and travelling. See for his professional website.

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