Foodstuff: Lee Kum Kee Brand Chili Black Bean Sauce

As I wrote in my ‘Foodstuffs’ post featuring Salted Black Beans, I generally prefer to use the raw beans when making a sauce as most of the commercial Black Bean Sauces are not very good, in my opinion.  Fermented black beans have a rather distinct ‘chocolaty’ under taste that is usually quite mild but this usually seems to be much more pronounced in commercial preparations. Commercial sauces also tend to have a rather nasty black color to them that can make a finished dish unattractive. Lee Kum Kee’s own version of regular Black Bean sauce is no better than any of the others in these regards but this particular version with Chili is excellent. The addition of chili limits its use to spicier dishes, of course, but it is still a very useful and versatile sauce… 

Appearance and Taste

The sauce looks very much like Lee Kum Kee’s Chiu Chow Chili Oil. It has the same red oil and the same dark, granular appearance of the solids but here, some whole and partially whole black beans can also be seen. The aroma is very rich with the same basic umami quality and faint chocolate notes as the plain bean.

The taste is very much of chili at the start and, indeed, this product is every bit as hot as most commercial chili oils. It is salty, but not overly so and the chili does not dominate so heavily as to overwhelm the rich flavors of the black beans.  There is also a fruitiness to this sauce that is a little unexpected and I suspect that this must be a function of the chili rather than the beans.

Overall

I have used this product a number of times for steaming ribs and it really works well in that capacity. I expect that it would make an excellent component of dipping sauces, particularly those with vinegar in them, but I also think that boiled dumplings served in a little dish with some of this sauce alone would be excellent.  It can also be employed with great utility in many stir-fried dishes, especially those with beef, as in my Bitter Melon and Beef with Chili Black Bean Sauce, but it would be very nice with fish as well. At present, I plan on using it as a sauce for a steamed chicken wing dish and I will post the results of that particular experiment in due course…

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