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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

In Revolutionary Chinese, Fuchsia Dunlop admits that home-style bean curd is one of those humble recipes that has been "imitated far and wide," but that has as many variations as cooks. That's probably because it takes a bunch of simple ingredients and makes them taste robust, meaty, and much more filling than they have any right to be. Though Dunlop's version is completely worth trying, I took a cue from the writeup and decided it was my duty to make this recipe my own.

You'll immediately notice the intense meaty base of this dish, which seems to come as much from the fermented black beans as from the little bits of pork. (Could mushrooms add the same amount of umami to the party if you wanted a vegetarian dish?)

Thanks to the cornstarch slurry, the original already has some thickness to it, but I wondered if some of that could be replaced by even more vegetables. Enter spinach, which wilts down to form a nice creamy base. Who's to say whether this version bests the other version, or any of the other variations floating around, but it's certainly tasty, proving once again the power of fermented black beans.

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is the editor of Serious Eats: Chicago. He loves tacos and spicy food. You can follow him as @nickdk on Twitter.

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