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This week's recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

April 28, 2012 |  9:00 am

Pork riblets braised in bacl bean sauce

This week, Andrea Nguyen writes about Chinese fermented black beans:

Wrinkly Chinese fermented black beans look as though they have just emerged from an archaeological site. Indeed, the salty, pungent little bits are an ancient Chinese staple. Made of black or yellow soybeans, they were once the only soy-based seasoning used all over China but nowadays are mostly employed in southern Chinese cooking.

Called dou chi in Mandarin and dul see in Cantonese, you may know them as the punchy dark flecks in the sparerib nuggets at dim sum. But fermented black beans are remarkably versatile. The beans can star as the gutsy seasoning responsible for the signature flavor of such favorites as clams with black bean sauce. But they don’t mind playing a supporting role too. When braised with meat, they recede into the background to lend an alluring earthiness to the sauce. Use them in vegetarian dishes to imbue ingredients such as tofu with umami depth. Or add them to chile oil to establish a savory backbone.

Used both as a seasoning and flavoring, she showcases the beans in a variety of recipes.

This week's recipes include:

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Photo: Pork riblets braised in garlic and black bean sauce. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times