When there’s a jar of black bean hot sauce in the cupboard, I am only a microwaved potato or a bowl of noodles away from a snack or a quick meal.
I discovered Heavenly Chef’s Yang Cheng Black Bean Hot Sauce when I was working with Richard Wong on his Modern Asian Flavors, A Taste of Shanghai (Chronicle Books). It immediately became a pantry staple. When G makes fried rice, I add a spoonful to my portion. Or I’ll cook up some Chinese noodles or soba noodles and toss them with some tahini and the black bean hot sauce. It would make a great crab with black bean dish and I have no idea why I’ve never done it. I still remember making Wolfgang Puck’s crab with black bean sauce (I made it for a friend’s rehearsal dinner.) and how amazingly good that was.
I probably haven’t because I keep it as a private pleasure, for a meal I look forward to eating alone. I do not think of sharing, of suggesting: Hey, I know, let’s have baked sweet potatoes with hot sauce for dinner! There are times when I look at the yams and potatoes at the store and long for a night when everyone is gone and I can revel in the flavor play of pungent black beans, chile heat, hint of orange zest and sweet, soft potato. And if you add cooling yogurt? Well!
Although, one afternoon, I did make it for J when he arrived in the kitchen hungry. I had just made one for myself dressed up with scallions and cilantro. He judged it a good, and filling, pile of food. Healthy, too. Maybe when he grows up and away, he, too, will turn to this dish for comfort and a blast of flavor.