My mother, who is an incredibly talented cook, taught me that adding cornstarch is the trick to giving any watery sauce some thickness in most Chinese cuisine.
If you’ve ever been to Chinese dim sum, you’ve most likely had this dish before—Steamed Black Bean Spare Ribs. I can never say no to the simple yet magical combination of black beans and pork ribs. They are one of my favourite things to eat at dim sum, and I’ve learned to enjoy its saucy texture over the years. My recent craving for it had me running to the local TNT Chinese supermarket where I bought a bag of Chinese dried black beans to experiment. Little did I know it was so easy (and fast) to cook!
I’ll let you know that shopping for Chinese dried black beans was no easy feat. There were many brands to choose from and it didn’t help that I had heard of many horror stories about toxic chemicals and fake foods coming out of China. In the end, I went patriotic and bought one of the brands that originated from Hong Kong. Whichever one you purchase, make sure the black beans are dry and without sauce, if you are following my recipe.
Chinese dried black beans don’t look very appetizing, that’s for sure. However, what they lack in looks they make up in the intense salty fermented flavour. This ingredient is usually the main player in any dish that calls for it and a little bit goes a long way. I would also recommend trying these black beans with a bowl of plain white rice and a fried egg. Just thinking about this combination gets me drooling—once you try it, you will understand.
My mother, who is an incredibly talented cook, taught me that adding cornstarch is the trick to giving any watery sauce some thickness in most Chinese cuisine. One of the defining characteristics of black bean pork ribs is its thick saucy glaze, which is why this recipe uses a lot of cornstarch. If you don’t like this texture, you can dial it down by reducing this ingredient.
Black Bean Spare Ribs Dim Sum
YIELD: 3 servings (when served family style with rice and vegetables)
ACTIVE TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME (active + inactive time): 40 minutes
CREDITS: Frances Lam
- 1.5 lbs pork side ribs (cut into riblets)
- 1 tbsp cooking wine (I used shaoxing wine)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar, although white is fine too)
- 0.25 tsp salt
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 tbsp black beans (dried)
- 2.5 tbsp corn starch
- 2 tbsp ginger (thinly sliced)
- In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together except for the ginger. Transfer into a dish that you can steam (I used a stainless steel dish) and sprinkle the ginger slices on top. Steam for 25 – 30 minutes. The ribs are thoroughly cooked when the meat comes off the bone cleanly.
- If you don’t have a steamer, position a steam rack in a large wok and fill it with an inch and a half of water. Bring the water to boil and put the dish of ribs on the rack, covering and steaming for 25 – 30 minutes.
There are a million and one ways to cook potatoes. They can be grilled, boiled, sautéed, braised, mashed, baked, and microwaved. Yes—microwaved. I used to have a coworker who would microwave potatoes for lunch, whenever I saw the microwave timer set for 7 minutes or more, I knew there was a potato rotating in that microwave.
There are a million and one ways to cook potatoes. They can be grilled, boiled, sautéed, braised, mashed, baked & microwaved. Yes—microwaved.
If you’ve ever had a Korean meal, chances are, the main dish was preceded by a bunch of small appetizer dishes containing foods like dried fish, pickled carrot, fish cakes, kimchi, and potatoes. These little dishes are called banchan. One of my favourite banchans is Kamja Jorim, which is a chilled braised potato dish. My version of this is sweet n’ spicy braised potatoes which be served hot as a family style dish or chilled and served as a banchan.
Sweet n’ Spicy Braised Potatoes Korean Style (감자조림)
YIELD: 4-6 portions when served as family style dish (if serving as banchans, this recipe can make 16 portions)
ACTIVE TIME: 15 min
TOTAL TIME (active + inactive time): 35 min
CREDITS: Inspired by Korean Savory Caramalized Potatoes (Kamja Chorim)
- 4 yellow potatoes (medium size)
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tspn red pepper flakes
- 1.5 tbsp rice wine
- 1 tbsp oil (for sautéing)
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 3 green onions stalks
- 1 to 1.5 cups of water
- honey (to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
- 2 tspn sesame oil
- 1 tspn sesame seeds (optional)
- Peel and cube the potatoes into roughly 2 cm pieces. Slice the green onion stalks into 1 cm pieces. Stir together 1/2 cup of water, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and chilli flakes.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and half of the green onions, sautéing until fragrant, roughly 30 seconds. Add the potatoes and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil, followed by turning the heat down to a low simmer. Cover partially and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. If all the water has been absorbed, add 1/2 a cup more, to avoid drying out the potatoes during this stage.
- Remove the cover, add another 1/2 cup of water and increase the heat to medium-high, cooking for another 10 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Test if the potato is done cooking by inserting a fork—if it splits the potato easily, it is ready, if you meet a lot of resistance in the center, cook for a tad longer and test again. Season to your liking and add honey if you feel the potatoes need to be sweeter and water if they are too dry.
- Drizzle on sesame oil and the remaining green onions, followed by removing from heat and serving with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
- 1/2 tspn of chilli pepper flakes will only add a little heat (in the opinion of a person who doesn’t regularly eat spicy foods), but nothing too overwhelming, adjust to your liking.
- Chill in fridge until cold if you are planning to serve as banchans (mini-appetizers).