This meal illustrates, for me anyway, the importance of names or labels. I have gotten into miso this past year, and while it was a foreign ingredient to me, it certainly did not make me squeamish or uneasy. I have not thought much about what it is (I know it involves fermented soybeans, but beyond that am not sure what goes into it), but I know I like it. Fermented black beans, on the other hand, a Chinese staple (and one that has been sitting unused in my pantry for eons now), give me a mental block. I am totally fine with stuff that has been fermented (fish sauce, hot sauce, the miso, etc) but I guess I don’t like being reminded of it. Which is silly. But every time I think about fermented black beans I picture my Mexican black beans rotting.
I am determined to get over this, however, since realizing how similar in some ways miso is to fermented black beans–and goodness knows I love miso. Now before the experts come screaming, I know that a lot more than fermented beans go into miso, but it does involve fermented legumes, and the 2 items became associated in my head after making my variation on Ching-He Huang’s Miso Beef Saucy Stir Fry, a recipe in the “East Meets East” chapter of her China Modern. I mentioned the chapter, because that is the point of the dish, she uses miso (and other Japanese ingredients) to flavor what is essentially a Chinese stir fry. And which in turn got me thinking about why I was so happy to use miso in a stir fry but still had not tried the fermented black beans. Shame on me!
Anyway, about the dish itself. I made this the night my sister got into town–it was perfect casual guest food because it was easy, fast, and quite tasty. I used beef round–I shaved slices off of a 4 lbs roast from the 1/4-cow in my freezer, about 2 lbs worth, which I then trimmed of fat. (Tip: when making stir fries, always try to slice your meat semi-frozen as you will get much thinner slices.) I came out to about 22 oz of beef, and I adjusted the recipe accordingly for myself. Below, I have kept the proportions as they are listed in the cookbook, but I changed the recipe drastically by turning it into a one pot meal and loading it with veggies (I doubled the sauce to account for the extra veggies). Anything to reduce the workload!
2 T vegetable oil
18 oz beef round, sliced in thin strips
2 T Chinese dark soy sauce
2 T minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
2 large handfuls of snow pea pods, the ends cut
For the sauce:
1 t Chinese 5 spice powder (I used Penzey’s)
2 T red miso paste
2 T sake or Shaoxing wine (I used the Shaoxing wine because I had no sake)
2 T mirin
2 T Chinese light soy sauce
2 T Chinese dark soy sauce
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 1/3 cups hot beef stock
2-8 hours before making the dish, marinate the beef strips in the 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce. Place in the refrigerator until you need them.
Combine all of the sauce ingredients and whisk briskly to combine. Set aside.
Heat a large wok or nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat it to shimmering. When it is nearly but not quite smoking, add the beef. Stir fry for 1 minute, and then add the mushrooms. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, and then remove to a large bowl. Wipe the pan out and add the second tablespoon of oil.
Over high heat, first add the ginger and stir fry briefly, 15 seconds or so. Then add the sauce and bring to a brisk simmer. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, at which point it will start to thicken. Add the beef and mushrooms back in with the red bell pepper and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the pea pods, stir frying for one last minute, and then serve over sticky white rice (I used Kohuko Rose).