I believe I’ve mentioned previously that I’m an avid fan of beef in black bean sauce. When it comes to ordering Chinese food (on the very rare occasion that we do buy a take out) it will always be my dish of choice. I find that it hugely varies across different eateries and sadly I had a particularly disappointing one recently – the main let down being a very thin sauce, made up almost solely of soy. Well, it appeared that way to me, anyhow.

On the back of this, we have been on the look out for a go-to recipe that we can recreate at home. It fills me with delight to say, I think we’ve found it. We gave Yan-kit So’s version an airing this week and it knocked the socks off most restaurant and take away replications that I’ve sampled over the years (there have been lots). The full ingredients list and cooking method can be found in ‘Yan-kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook’. Incidentally, a great book to have in your collection, if you’re partial to a bit of Chinese cookery.

As ever, early preparation of the meat is integral to the flavour. A couple of hours marination should work nicely for this one.

To make our version of this dish (serves two) you will need:
For the marinade:
– One teaspoon of groundnut oil (we used sunflower)
– Quarter of a teaspoon of sugar
– Quarter of a teaspoon of salt
– Eights turns of a black pepper mill
– Two tablespoons of dark soy sauce
– Two tablespoons of Shaohsing rice wine
– Three tablespoons of water
– One and a half teaspoons of cornflour
– One teaspoon of toasted sesame oil

For the main dish:
– 450g of stir fry beef strips (we used rump – more pricey but worth it for taste and texture)
– Five tablespoons of groundnut/sunflower oil
– One tablespoon of Shaohsing rice wine
– One teaspoon of cornflour
– Six tablespoons of water
– Two green bell peppers (deseeded/roughly chopped)
– Five garlic cloves (peeled/finely chopped)
– Four spring onions (finely chopped – green and white parts seperated)
– Two and a half tablespoons of fermented black beans (rinsed well
and mashed with one teaspoon of oil and quarter of a teaspoon of sugar)
– One fresh red chilli (seeded/sliced – we used one dried chilli and just finely chopped it with seeds in)
– Salt (to taste)

– Firstly mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl – apart from the water and cornflower. Add the meat in and coat well.
– Sprinkle over the cornflour and add the water, one tablespoon at a time, stirring in one direction. Only add more water in when it becomes hard to stir. This is the ‘velveting’ process that helps to tenderise the beef. Leave to refrigerate covered for thirty minutes to two hours.
– Mix the cornflour and water together in a small bowl and set aside.
– Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok to a high temperature. Add the green peppers and stir fry for a couple of minutes (taking care not to burn), season with salt and set aside on a warmed plate.
– Heat the wok again until beginning to smoke and tip in the remaining oil.
– Add the garlic and the white spring onions as it begins to colour, stirring continuously. Next, mix in the chilli and black bean paste.
– Incorporate the meat into the pan and stir well until fully browned on all sides and partially cooked (one to two minutes).
– Add in the Shaohsing rice wine and continue to stir vigorously, followed by the cornflour mixture once the sizzling has subsided.
– Add the green peppers and green spring onions and stir until thickened to your liking.
– Serve immediately with plain rice.

This plate had a wonderfully thick, savoury, salty sauce with a pretty decent kick behind it. Everything a black bean dish should be, in my mind. Now for us, the only way to cook it.