Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Braised Black Cabbage and Noodles in Black Bean Sauce (From Scratch!)



Ah, I missed having a bursting fridge. The farmer's markets took a break for Christmas, so it has been two weeks since the first farmer's market of the new year. Maybe it's because I've been surrounded by all sorts of beautiful fresh produce and been spoilt for choice for so long, but the few wanders down Tesco's aisles had been stifling. I'm not a snob at all, but I just felt very bored and uninspired to do anything exciting with the third bag of spring greens or shrunken savoy cabbage.

It felt good to wake at 5 and return to the market last Saturday and to see my fridge bursting with food like a happy fat man, post-buffet. People seem to think that winter doesn't really bring much excitement on the produce front (especially if you're stuck with the aforementioned spring greens and shrunken savoy cabbages), but I love all my winter roots and hardy greens. My favourite is the black cabbage, also called the tuscan kale, or dinosaur kale, or if you want to sound posh, cavolo nero. It's a magnificent deep deep greeen, almost black, and has a gorgeous texture that stands up to long slow stews and braises, so it's perfect for all those winter soups. 

I braised it with fermented salted black beans, Chinese-style, kind of because I wanted to go for a sort-of alliteration and the double 'black', hur. But it turned out great and I thought it a wonderful chance to show you how you can make black bean sauce (and noodles) from scratch. It's stupid to buy a jar of the ready-made paste when you can make it yourself without any random preservatives; a jar of salted black beans can last you for ages and is nothing but salt and black beans, fermented the good old way so you can just leave it on your kitchen cupboard for an infinite (or so my mum says) period of time. This black bean sauce is versatile to be tossed with not just noodles, but your favourite vegetable or animal.


GARLIC BLACK BEAN SAUCE
makes 1/4 cup
Ingredients
2 tbsp fermented black beans
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup homemade (asian) stock, or water if desperate
1 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally fermented)
2 tbsp unrefined dark brown sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp groundnut oil or lard from happy pigs
1 tsp cornstarch + 1 tsp water to form a slurry

Method
1. Rinse the fermented black beans of excess surface salt. Chop the garlic and mash together with the black beans into a rough paste.
2. Heat the oil and saute the black bean-garlic paste till fragrant.
3. Add the stock, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil, and bring to a boil, let simmer till reduced by half.
4. Add the cornstarch slurry slowly and stir and continue to let it simmer until thickened.
5. You can now pour this over blanched veggies or noodles or toss pre-velveted chicken or flash-fried slices of beef back into the wok for a black bean sauce <insert>.

I'll give you an example.

BLACK BEAN NOODLES WITH BRAISED BLACK CABBAGE AND CHICKEN
serves 1-2
Ingredients
1 large bunch of black cabbage, chopped into bite size pieces
1 free-range chicken leg, skin on
1 handful of dried thick rice noodles
ingredients for black bean sauce, above
1 tbsp of groundnut oil

Method
1. Heat oil and when medium hot, add the chicken leg skin down to sear. When golden brown on the outside, but not yet fully cooked on the inside, remove and set aside.
2. Follow instructions for black bean sauce as per above, till Step 3.
3. Add the black cabbage and seared chicken leg to the simmering black bean sauce and stock, cover and let simmer for a good 30 min before lifting the lid to let it reduce.
4. Meanwhile, add the rice noodles to a pot of boiling water with a drop of oil added to cook, for about 5 minutes (or as per package instructions). Drain and scoop into bowls.
6. Thicken the black bean sauce with the cornstarch slurry (see Step 4 above) and pour the sauce along with the cabbage and chicken over the noodles. If you can be bothered to/ am taking photos for your blog eh hem, pick out the chicken and cabbage and place nicely on the side before pouring the sauce over.
7. Dig in with your chopsticks making sure it's all well mixed and the noodles are coated with the sauce. Slurp.



These black bean noodles are sometimes known as jajangmyeon (Korean), which came from the Chinese zha jiang mian, which is however made from fermented broad bean (dou ban jiang, I talked about this before) or soybean paste. Both are typically made with wheat flour noodles, but I used the thick rice spaghetti instead because I always have them in my kitchen cupboard (just above the black beans!) and I like its slippery blandness against the pungent sauce. It's also gluten-free for all those watching your diet for the new year (or first month of the new year). 

So I'm not sure what it is exactly that I have here, but it's good. These little black beads may not look like much, in fact I hear my friends say they resemble rat's poop, but they pack a punch. The black bean sauce is rich and savoury and intense, and the black cabbage, strong, earthy, and meltingly tender, all wonderful tossed through the smooth noodles. Slurp. CAUTION: Messy affair, do not eat with white shirt on.

55 comments:

  1. Stunning photos, Shu - they alone have made me hungry, haha.

    xo,
    Lela - www.LelaLONDON.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Now you've got me curious. I thought, from what you said, that you were making preserved beans from scratch. It can't be that hard. After all I've made kimchee many times. In any case, I love preserved beans, and kale, and noodles. They make me happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmm I'm not sure about that, things liek miso and soy sauce for isntance, takes much experience and skill to make. but then again, fermented black beans may be different, now you got me curious too! the same thigns make me happy (:

      Delete
  3. oh my god, i want this for dinner!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Happy new year Shu Han! I just love to think of a full fridge as a fat man post buffet! That visual speaks to me. Your pictures make that dish look so comforting! I'm slightly intimidated by the preserved beans, but I'm sure I'll get over that :-) As for white shirts... they just don't exist within a 5 mile radius of a toddler, so I'm all good there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi helene! The preserved beans aren't scary at all, they are not as acquired a taste as some other asian foods, i'm sure you'll like them! Hahaha about the white shirts ;D

      Delete
  5. This looks so good Shu Han, the photos make it jump off the page. Black Kale is my favourite kind. I eat it all through winter. Looks like the perfect dinner for a cold January day and I didn't even get put off by the rat poop comment haha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha oh dear I realise now that reference may not have been the best for people new to fermented black beans :O

      Delete
  6. I love this, pretty much my perfect dinner. I can NEVER find black beans anywhere though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks caroline! oh they are pretty easy to find in asian stores, good luck finding them (;

      Delete
  7. bout the most appetizing noodle bowl I have ever seen. beautiful. where do you get your fermented black beans from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yay thanks! you can get them in most of the asian stores in chinatown, seewoo / new loon moon are my regular haunts for asian grocery stockup (:

      Delete
  8. I can't wait to make my own black bean sauce. And these noodles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay so glad you foudn this helpful and that you can now make your own! (:

      Delete
    2. I made it! With pork (from a happy pig, of course) instead of chicken. Just had it for lunch. Delicious!

      Delete
  9. our farmer's market has closed for the season, not to return until after easter, i think. i despair.
    i am a fan of noodles and have been noshing on it more recently. this dish looks wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EASTER?! I think I can't wait that long...

      Delete
  10. looks lovely - thanks for the recipe :o)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'll take out the chicken (and throw in tofu instead, maybe) and make this.

    I'm lucky that even when there are no markets, or when I don't get to markets (i.e on those rare weekends off) I can still get my veg and fruit from a local deli, who sell things from Chegworth, the Garlic Farm, Mouthfull... etc. (yeah, like half their stuff is from LFM producers!). Fail that, I prefer to frequent a corner shop, or one Korean and one Chinese place that I go to fairly regularly for tofu and things. Or the Japan Centre. That's obviously not local-produce, but I prefer that over Tesco!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can also use mushrooms, I love it when shiitakes soak up all that braising liquid.

      You are lucky! These pretty much are the same producers we get! It's true, after a while, I got so sick I went to shop at chinatown, but then the prices put me off; especially when I know how cheap these local (asin when back home vegetables really are in asia!

      Delete
  12. I love these double black noodles! And have never had the black cabbage. I know only very similarly textured cabbage, but it is round (like the most famous European white cabbage). I must look for it here! The Swiss seem to love cabbages (lots of them grow also as decoration in the city centre during the winter...).
    My Sichuan cookery book calls for black beans not black bean sauce, but unfortunately the only ones I have found here are in metal cans, so I cannot keep them as long as if they were in glass jars. I will see if I can find glass jars too because frankly the black bean sauce I buy is just not the same...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's also known by a few other names so you may actually have come across it as a sort of kale instead!
      indeed, we never use black bean sauce out of a jar! fermented black beans are very much different from the black beans you get in cans :o they are salted and are shrunken from the fermentation. maybe you can try the asian stores?

      Delete
    2. Oh! Thanks a lot! I thought the canned beans were the same as the ones in jars. I will ask for them in my Asian grocery shop.

      Delete
  13. *whispers* zha jiang mian is my noodle nemesis. I've never really liked it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. but zha jiang mian is usually made from dou ban jiang or soy bean paste right? this is made from black bean, (like the korean jajangmyeon, but the sauce base is more chinese than korena) so you may like it.. ? :p

      Delete
  14. Oh, homemade black bean sauce is a really good idea! I've found making fermented food to be a little intimidating, but it tastes so good that I think I need to overcome my fears and go for it. :) I've never heard of black cabbage--is it a bit like kale? The pic really looks like lacinato/"dinosaur" kale to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. well you aren't really makeing the fermented black beans.. you're just making the sauce from these fermented black beans so no worries there :) and black cabbage is the same as dinosaur kale, it's got many names!

      Delete
  15. I just know as crazy as I am for Jjangjmyeun that I would love this...braised cabbage is wonderful and those chubby noodles are just screaming my name =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to try makign the korean version of jajangmyeun one day too :) yay for black bean sauce!

      Delete
  16. This reminds me of food that my first ever flatmate, who was Chinese, used to cook at home. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. a meal that's so typical of a chinese student right hehe

      Delete
  17. Shu, I love this dish, the noodles in the first click is breath taking, so yummy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks munaty! I realise it was very messy but I guess that's the charm of noodles :)

      Delete
  18. I like how it turned out. Its presentation and color invites the urge to eat. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Will definitely try it. :)
    - MiracleNoodle.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks rachel! coming from someone from a noodle shop, I'm real chuffed!

      Delete
  19. Replies
    1. yes sonia, I think everything is better from scratch! no nasty preservatives!:)

      Delete
  20. YUMMY! This looks so delicious & mouthwatering! Love it & from scratch is always the best ! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Not sure if I could prepare all the recipes you post, but one thing I know for sure... I would eat them all ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. come on I'm sure you could, this really is very simple!!

      Delete
  22. I love fermented black beans - so flavoursome. I also love black cabbage so this is ideal. Maybe with a fried egg on top ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love most fermented anything, so flavoursome :) A fried egg sounds good actually, but there was already chicken (hidden by noodles hur)

      Delete
  23. Oh. My. Goodness. I want to slurp up these noodles so bad. I now have a craving for jajjangmyun. Chewy noodles with a salty and savory sauce. I'm practically drooling!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. this isn't the korean style jajangmyun though it;s also made from fermented black beans! but yep, chewy noodles with a salty and savoury sauce still applies ;)

      Delete
  24. Hi! in London? Your recipe looks great! I'm looking to feature people who love cooking and have eczema, in my new blog series, know of any? Thanks! Tweet me @marciemom if you do, cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  25. The black bean sauce looks awesome Shu Han!! Where do you get those fermented beans? Can you actually buy raw black beans and ferment them yourself?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. heya! you can get them easily from most asian food stores, I got them in chinatown! I'm not sure how to ferment them yourself... it is probably possible, but I have no idea how!

      Delete
  26. Hi Shu Han, thanks for the interesting recipe. It sure look awesome and I don't mind to have second serving, a big bowl please! ^-^
    I like the last picture of the empty bowl. ;)

    Best regards.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Shu Han! How're you? Gosh, every single time I stop by your blog, I leave with a sense of comfort and satisfaction. Love the step by step homemade noodles from scratch in your latest post too. I don't think I have ever used fermented black bean sauce in my noodles and I am dying to try this. Fantastic and gorgeous clicks ;). ♥ Jo

    ReplyDelete
  28. This is an interesting contrast to a recipe with black kale that is one of the most popular dishes I've ever cooked - black kale with chilli, garlic, anchovies and a really strong cheese, served with pasta: http://frankaboutfood.co.uk/post/11830086596/black-kale-with-pecorino-semistagionato

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi Shu Han, your noodles look so good and I can say you are very hardworking in the kitchen. I love homemade noodles but I am afraid of the 'hardwork' so I never get to do them. The one that I'll make is 'mee hoon kueh' cos' I like the ikan bilis soup with lots of sweet vege and minced meat.

    ReplyDelete