Steaming Oysters with a sauce made from Salted Black Beans is a favorite Cantonese preparation, and one I have enjoyed many times. Unfortunately, fresh oysters are just about impossible to come by in this part of the world and so, for this experiment, I am going to improvise using some lovely New Zealand Mussels I happen to have in my freezer. The variety, somewhat erroneously sold as ‘Kiwi Clams’, is the same type I used (and photographed) for my Bouillabaisse experiment over the Christmas holidays and they should work very nicely with the rich, umami flavor of black beans paired with garlic and chili…
- 12 large Mussels
- 2 Tbsp. Salted Black Beans;
- 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped;
- 1 tsp. Sugar;
- 1 tsp. Red Chili, chopped (or sliced into thin rings);
- ¼ cup Rice Wine;
- 1 Scallion, thinly sliced into rings;
- Few leaves of lettuce, coarsely shredded.
Mash the garlic into the sugar with the back of the fork and then add the salted black beans. Continue mashing until the beans are mostly all crushed but still have chunks visible here and there.
Now add the chili and the rice wine along with the white and light green parts of the scallion. Stir well and set aside to let the flavors meld for 30 minutes or so. Reserve the remainder of the scallion rings for garnish.
Line appropriate steamer dishes with some of the lettuce leaves and then arrange the mussels on top. The leaves will add stability for the shells and also add a nice touch of color.
Spoon the black bean mixture evenly over the mussels.
Steam everything for 5 to 6 minutes and then serve.
I am happy to report that, for a first attempt, this turned out as nicely as many restaurant equivalents I have tried, although I have to admit that the quality of these mussels deserves much of the credit here. My wife really loved it, saying she could eat it all night, and I liked it very much myself. The food critic in me, however, is also compelled to admit that the sauce needs a little tweaking as it had a few rough edges. The chili heat might be a bit much for some people and I thought that the sugar could probably be decreased by half as the mussels are sweet enough on their own. I also think that just a hint of ginger and some sesame oil might also go a long way to balancing the flavors a bit. That being said, though, I was pleased with the result…