Preparing Chicken In Black Bean Sauce

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Chicken in black bean sauce is a great recipe for woks. The dish is very much southern Chinese. A great favourite of the chef Ken Hom who suggests chicken wings but other chicken pieces such as breast could be used too. The chicken pieces usually have the bones left in because they contribute so much additional flavour during cooking especially to the sauce.

The chicken wings are cut at the joint with a cleaver but any good quality sharp bladed knife will do.

The Black Beans

The other key ingredient is the black beans which are bought canned or in a plastic bag. They are fermented in various spices and salt which turns them black. These beans create a pungent, slightly beany leguminous note to the sauce.  They are available in Asian/Chinese retailers. Chopping them up releases more flavour.

Purchase your black beans

The Marinade

The marinade should be a simple affair of light soy sauce which is saltier than dark soy sauce. This marinade is very traditional because it uses rice wine but other types of sauce additions are useful including sriracha which is now very much in vogue. The marinade lends a particularly spicy umami note.

Wok Work

Ken Hom prefers a cantonese wok with a wok stand over a gas flame because he can cook the chicken a little longer by first stir-frying and then braising the meat. Chicken wings need longer cooking than chicken used in stir-fries. The ginger, spring onions and garlic suffuse the kitchen air with their spicy fragrance but beware of burning them during frying. All the ingredients need to be mixed and stirred constantly so they don’t stick to the wok’s surface. The oil helps hee but it pays to be diligent with wok technique.

The Chicken Stock

It is perfectly reasonable to use buy in stock for dishes where it’s needed and even a chicken stock cube in the absence of anything else but a homemade stock is just brilliant. See our recipe for the best  chicken stock.

Purchase your chicken stock here

The chicken pieces can be allowed to go cold where they make an excellent salad addition or a picnic addition.

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  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine or chinese vinegar

The Wok Work:

  • 1 lb. chicken wings or other chicken pieces – usually with the bones but if desired these could be removed. These pieces are best cut into 2 inch portions.
  • 1½ tbsp black beans – coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil – cottonseed oil, maize or corn oil but not olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger – finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic – finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp spring onions – finely chopped
  • 5fl.oz. chicken stock


  1. Marinade the chicken wings by placing them in a bowl and adding the soy sauce and rice wine. Mix well.  Leave to marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Heat a wok, preferably a Cantonese wok which has two handles and a wok stand. Add the vegetable oil to season.
  3. Add the ginger, spring onions and garlic, mix well in the wok for about a minute. Keep stirring to avoid burning. 
  4. Add the chopped black beans and stir briefly for half a minute.
  5. Add the chopped chicken wing pieces using a slotted spoon. Continue to stir fry. The marinade can also go in – I don’t like to waste even this flavour. Keep stirring until the chicken is lightly browned.
  6. Braise the chicken by adding chicken stock and stir for a minute. Bring to a  boil and then immediately turn the heat down to simmer for 15 minutes.
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1 Comment

  1. One of your better ones I think. It seemed like the one I get from my local Chinese restaurant in Guilford. I think they do the best but having tried others this seems to have a good combination of herbs and spices. I wondered if they use more ginger and I thought I cracked it the other day. I reckon they use Tesco chicken pieces but it must be wholesale.

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