Secret ingredient: Black beans

16:00, Oct 01 2012
black beans
BEAN THERE, DONE THAT: Cooked black turtle beans, left, and cooked douchi black beans, right.

There are black beans and there are black beans. Can you tell the difference between the two? Here's how to identify and use them in your cooking.

WHAT ARE BLACK BEANS?

There are two types of black beans. The small black beans (douchi, dowsi, dausi plus variations) favoured by Asian cooks are usually black soy beans that have been preserved in salt and fermented with spices. The larger black turtle beans are popular in Latin American, Caribbean, Cajun and Creole cooking.

WHAT DO THEY TASTE LIKE?

Douchi are salty and slightly sweet/sour, while turtle beans have a meaty, floury texture with a touch of sweetness.

WHERE CAN I FIND THEM?

Douchi are sold in packets at Asian food stores, but are more commonly found combined in sauces such as black bean sauce with garlic, which are readily available from supermarkets.

Turtle beans - sold in New Zealand as black beans - can be purchased in cans (sometimes spiced with chilli) from supermarkets and speciality food stores. They are also available dried and require soaking overnight in cold water, rinsing then boiling for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender, before using in recipes.

WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD?

If an Asian recipe calls for black beans you could substitute black bean sauce.
Red kidney beans could be a substitute for black turtle beans as the texture is similar - but not the colour, obviously.

GOT ANY GOOD RECIPES USING THEM?

Douchi are excellent in stir-fries or soups but are often mashed and spread over steaks before grilling, or used to make black bean sauce. The sauce can be brushed over pork or chicken before roasting; spread over fish before steaming or microwaving; or drizzled over steamed mussels just before serving.

Black turtle beans lend themselves to salads, stir-fries, pasta dishes, tacos and curries. This pumpkin and black bean chilli is a great warming dinner.

Jan Bilton  is a member of the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers. She is also a food stylist, food photographer and author of a number of books.

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