Chinese Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce


Fermented black beans, if you’re not already familiar with them through dishes like mapo tofu or black bean chicken, are very potent and tasty, but definitely not the most attractive ingredient in the world. They come prepackaged in either a plastic bag or a plastic or glass jar. The best way to describe the smell right out of the package is “super funky barnyard”. That said, when cooked, they add a wonderful earthiness to Chinese dishes, so that’s why we use ’em. However, if you do buy them in plastic, it’s best to transfer them to a glass container with a tight lid, to store in the back of the fridge. That way, their lovely funky aroma won’t bother anyone and they’ll keep for a really long time. 

This shrimp stir-fry is extremely quick to put together. In fact, it is almost too quick. So you should have everything on hand with the expectation that it’ll all be over in less than 5 minutes. I add some baby bok choy for color and good leafy green vitamins. If you like the earthy pungency of black beans and garlic, and still want to taste the lightness of perfectly cooked shrimp, give this one a try!


Chinese Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce

Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal

  • 1 pound jumbo or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed, drained, and lightly mashed with the back of a spoon
  • 1 pound bok choy, hard ends trimmed and leaves separated
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  1. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until pink all around, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  2. In the same wok or skillet, add the garlic, ginger, and scallion whites and cook just until aromatic, about 20 seconds. Add the fermented black beans and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Add the bok coy and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. Stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the bok choy is slightly wilted.
  3. Return the shrimp to the pan. Stir-fry for another 1 minute, until the shrimp is well-coated with the sauce. Transfer everything to a plate, garnish with scallion greens, and serve.