Happy New Year! Chinese New Year: The Year of the Pig (Boar)

February 21, 2007 | Filed Under Chinese New Year, Holidays | Leave a Comment 

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Stir-Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce

The Chinese New Year has given me the opportunity to make my very first Chinese dish – a very simple recipe of Stir-Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce. From what I’ve read, clams are a popular dish to serve for the Chinese New Year because its shells look like Chinese coins and that represents prosperity. The idea of a prosperous recipe reminds me of an Italian dish I once made for New Year’s. It involved lentils because its shape is also reminiscent of coins and represents prosperity.

For my New Year’s prosperity dish, I had to buy three ingredients – clams, Shao Hsing rice cooking wine, and Chinese dried black beans. I’d never heard of the last two ingredients before. I planned on going to Chinatown to grocery shop but I was too tired and didn’t feel like getting on the subway to go there. Instead I stopped by a neighborhood store that sells various Asian products.

I found the rice cooking wine, easily, but had more of an adventurous time finding the Chinese dried black beans. It turned out that the store only carried Korean dried black beans, not Chinese. I wasn’t sure of the difference and the store employees couldn’t help me. I bought the bag of Korean beans because I figured that they couldn’t be very different from the Chinese beans.

I stopped at another Asian grocery store and all they had was some kind of soy dried black beans. The staff couldn’t help me. Just in case, I bought that bag of soybeans, too.

I went home and used the first bag of beans I bought. Guess what? They were the wrong type of beans, I discovered belatedly. Everything cooked, except for the beans. They were still hard. Hard as a rock.

One of my favorite parts while cooking was when I put the ginger and garlic into the pot. So aromatic, it prompted me to do my happy dance. The dish tasted pretty good – except for those hard beans.

Despite that little glitch in my meal, preparing the Stir-Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce was a fun way to welcome the Chinese New Year of 4705. I plan on making this dish again and my co worker is going to bring me the real Chinese dried black beans, so my next attempt should be more successful.

And what am I going to do with the wrong type of beans, I bought? I have no recipes for which to use them. However, I plan on making a pie soon, and I think they’d make good weights for when I make a pie crust — the docking method, I believe it’s called. I’m glad everything has worked out. That’s a good start to the New Year. ;-)))))

Happy New Year!


Ed. Note: My co-worker brought me the real Chinese dried black beans. Thank you, L! Boy, what a big difference from the ones I bought. As many of you have pointed out, the Chinese dried black beans are fermented and softer. I definitely plan on making this meal again with the proper beans. Thanks, everyone for your comments. I truly appreciate your input! It’s a lot of help.

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Stir-Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce
The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing – Grace Young

Serves 4 to 6

2 dozen littleneck or cherrystone clams
2 tbsp. Chinese dried black beans
2 tbsp. finely shredded ginger
1 tbsp. finely minced garlic
½ cup homemade chicken broth
2 tbsp. Shao Hsing rice cooking wine
1 scallion, finely shredded

1. Thoroughly wash the clams in several changes of cold water, discarding any open clams. Scrub the shells with a vegetable brush to remove grit and rinse well. Drain the clams in a colander. Rinse the black beans in several changes of cold water and drain. In a small bowl, coarsely mash the black bean with the back of a wooden spoon.

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, ginger and garlic, and stir-fry 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the remaining tablespoons vegetable oil, beans and clams, and stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes, or until the shells just begin to open. Add the broth and rice wine and cover 2 to 3 minutes, or until some of the shells have opened.

3. Transfer the opened clams to a platter and continue stirring, uncovered, on high heat until all the clams have opened and broth is reduced slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Discard any unopened clams.

4. Garnish with the scallion. No need to add salt; clams are naturally salty, as are the black beans. Serve immediately.

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Correct beans for this recipe — Chinese Dried Black Beans
It’s fermented and much softer than the beans pictured below.

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Wrong beans for this recipe #1 — Korean black beans, instead of Chinese.

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Wrong beans for this recipe #2 — Soy Black Beans

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Shao Hsing Rice Cooking Wine