Kate Johnson: Tofu and vegetables with black bean sauce (recipe)

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One of my favorite Asian flavors originates from fermented black soybeans. The actual process of fermenting black soybeans takes a rather long time and produces a well known by-product which is soy sauce.
While there are a number of pre-made black bean sauces that are available at your grocery store I have found, without question, that homemade black bean sauce is far superior. The sauce starts with fermented black soy beans which are available at your local Asian market or can be ordered online. The fermenting process is done with salt, therefore, fermented black beans have a salty, umami flavor that can be used in many dishes including anything with vegetables, meat, eggs, tofu or even seafood.
Making black bean sauce from scratch takes only a few ingredients and a short time. Once you are done you can keep this sauce in a jar in your refrigerator for up to two months. Homemade black bean sauce will take quick, simple meals and raise them up to a whole new level.
While many folks love a good stir-fry, I tend to prefer roasting my vegetables and tofu. I love the added flavor as well as the ease and volume of that style of cooking. Today I will give you a delicious recipe for Black Bean sauce as well as a description of how I roast vegetables and tofu.

Roasting Vegetables
I usually roast a bulk amount of my favorite vegetables (broccoli, green beans, asparagus, onions, carrots, cauliflower, etc.) to be used for future meals (fajitas/stir-fry/rice bowls/noodle bowls). I wash, cut and place them on parchment paper on a large baking pan. Sometimes I combine them together and sometimes I do them separately, depending upon what I have planned for them down the road. I will often add whole unpeeled garlic that I squeeze out in the mixture when done, as well as other fresh herbs for flavor (which I toss after roasting).
I use a few tablespoons of oil (although you can do this very well without any additional oil added). I often use olive oil, however, I also use peanut, sesame, hot pepper or infused olive oils instead, for a different flavor profile. Then I lightly salt with a mild sea salt (if doing a fajita mix I add fajita spice mix). Place the pan in a preheated 425 degree oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are fork tender and a little blackened. Once done I let them cool completely. I refrigerate what I want to use in the next few days and place the rest on a parchment lined baking pan and freeze. Once frozen, I place in storage bags and freeze for future use. This comes in handy during the gardening harvest time when you are inundated with vegetables.

Roasting Tofu
I buy my tofu at our local Chef’s Store where you can purchase a package of three organic blocks of tofu for a very reasonable price. I often freeze my tofu before roasting as it results in the water coming out upon thawing. However, either way I end up wrapping my tofu blocks in a tea towel and placing a weighted object on top for 20 minutes or so to help them drain well (several heavy bowls usually do the trick).
I cut the block in half length wise and then into the size of desired pieces, add a few tablespoons of oil (usually one or two of olive oil and at least one of hot oil), mixing it up well with my hands to get them well covered. Then I place on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes until they are nice and crisp and browned - flip half-way through.

Homemade Black Bean Sauce


14 cup peanut oil or olive oil

8 garlic cloves finely grated

4 cm (1.5”) piece ginger peeled, finely grated

green onions finely chopped

12 cup salted fermented black beans soaked in water about an hour then rinsed and drained (if you prefer a stronger and saltier flavor)

1 cup vegetable/chicken/beef broth

4 tbsp Chinese Shaoxing wine (optional)

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp rice vinegar (optional)

1 tsp cornstarch (mixed with a tablespoon of cold water) 


Heat the oil in a pan over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring often for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add the black beans, stir and cook another minute. Add broth and remaining ingredients except cornstarch. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the water has nearly evaporated. Add cornstarch mixture and simmer until thickened. Transfer sauce to a sterilized jar. Use a couple large tablespoons stirred into vegetables/tofu/meat and heat well or place a dollop on cooked eggs and enjoy.

Kate Johnson is a long-time resident of Carson City. She is an avid gardener, cook, musician and lover of dogs.


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