Clams in black bean sauce

Clams in black bean sauce

Chi zhi chao xian

Every Grain of Rice
Chris Terry

This Cantonese dish is messy to eat and gorgeously flavoured; the home-made black bean sauce is in a different league from the dull bottled versions. Its robust flavours are an equally magnificent match for mussels. Do make sure you don’t overcook the clams, or they will become what the Chinese call ‘old’ (tired and leathery).


Quantity Ingredient
1kg clams, in their shells
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 fresh red chillies, cut into thin diagonal slices
3 tablespoons green pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
salt, (optional)
1 teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced


  1. Rinse the clams thoroughly in cold water. Discard any with broken shells and those that are open and do not close when tapped.
  2. Pour 500 ml water into a lidded saucepan large enough to hold all the clams and bring to a boil. Then add the clams, cover and heat over a high flame for three to four minutes, until all the shells have opened, opening the lid briefly from time to time to stir them. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and set aside, discarding any that have failed to open. Keep the cooking liquor in the pan.
  3. Heat a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the oil, followed by the black beans, ginger, garlic, chillies and green pepper, and stir-fry briefly until they all smell wonderful. Pour in 150 ml of the clams’ cooking liquor. Bring to a boil, skim if necessary, then season with the Shaoxing wine and soy sauces and a little salt, if desired.
  4. Give the potato flour mixture a stir and add it to the wok in two or three stages, using just enough to thicken the liquid to the consistency of single cream. Then, off the heat, stir in the clams and spring onion greens and mix everything together. Tip into a dish and serve.


  • Mussels in black bean sauce: You can cook and serve mussels in exactly the same way; the only difference is that they will take a little longer to open than the clams.
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