Clams in Black Bean Sauce

by Katie Chin, Tastemaker in Residence


There’s something sultry about this dish.  It’s earthy, aromatic, salty, slippery and a bit a spicy.  Don’t confuse Chinese black beans with Mexican black beans.  Chinese black beans are also known as fermented or salted black beans and are made from fermented soy beans.  They are pungent and quite strong so it’s important to soak and rinse them for a bit before cooking.  You can find Chinese black beans at Chinese and other Asian markets.  Fermented black beans are usually paired with garlic, ginger and chilies because they are so strong in flavor and marry well with these bold aromatics.  If you don’t have fermented black beans feel free to substitute with store-bought black bean sauce.  Just add the same about of sauce when you’d normally add the soaked and rinsed fermented black beans.  You can buy black bean sauce in the gourmet section at Cost Plus World Market.  


2 tablespoons fermented black beans

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon water

36 clams

3 cups cold water

3 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 cup boiling water

3 tablespoons canola oil

6 dried red chilies or chili de arbor

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

1 green onion, white and green parts, finely chopped


  • Place beans in a small bowl; cover with warm water. Stir beans about 2 minutes to remove excess salt. Remove beans from water; drain well. Mix cornstarch, sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.

  • Discard any broken or open clams; place remaining clams in a large bowl. Mix 3 cups water and the vinegar; pour over the clams. Let stand 30 minutes. Scrub clams under running cold water.

  • Place clams in a steamer with 1/2 cup boiling water. Steam 5 minutes or until clams open at least 1 inch; remove clams as they open (discard the clams that do not open). Strain clam liquid through double-thickness cheesecloth; reserve 1 cup. Keep clams warm.

  • Heat wok or skillet until very hot. Add canola oil and tilt to coat. Add reserve black beans, chilies, garlic and ginger and stir-fry 1 minute.

  • Add reserved liquid and heat to boiling. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir 1 minute or until thickened. Add the reserved clams and toss until coated. Sprinkle with green onions and serve immediately with hot jasmine rice.