Fermented black beans combine with toasted garlic for a super-savoury noodle dish you’ll want to add to your repertoireM
My life story can be told in two parts: before I discovered Chinese black beans and after. Yes, they are the same beans that grace the infamous jars of sweet, ready-made black-bean sauce, but used as raw ingredients, these beans taste very different and are like a silver bullet in vegan cooking. They are tiny, salty, umami bombs that, like many of the best ingredients, are an instant short cut to delicious flavour. A story worth telling, I think.
Burnt garlic, cavolo nero and black bean noodles
Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
3 tbsp fermented (preserved) black beans
5 fat garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bird’s eye red chilli
1 tsp corn starch
250ml vegetable stock (suitable for vegans)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 tbsp sesame oil
100g wheat noodles
200g cavolo nero, leaves stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped
Light soy sauce, to taste
Put the fermented beans in a small bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, tip into a mortar with the garlic and chilli, and smash to a paste. (If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, mince the garlic and finely chop the black beans.)
Put the corn starch in a small cup or bowl, add a tablespoon of stock, stir until you have a smooth paste and set aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the bean paste. After three or four minutes, when you can smell the garlic starting to burn, add the stock, syrup and sesame oil, and let it boil for around five minutes, until the liquid reduces by half. Add the corn starch paste, boil for a minute longer, then turn off the heat.
Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil, drop in the noodles and cavolo nero, and cook according to the noodle packet instructions, or until tender, then drain.
In batches, mix the noodles and cabbage into the sauce, until well coated. Taste and adjust the seasoning with soy sauce, if need be, then pile into bowls and serve straight away.