Szechuan Black Bean Sauce with Shrimp or Crab

Black bean sauce is very deep in our memory, a passionately held love affair from all the fabulous meals we enjoyed in the Chinatowns of Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. They were seafood dishes filled with authenticity and gravitas, and packed with Umami. This little feast brings those extraordinary dishes into our own wild savory kitchen.

Preparing a Szechuan (also spelled Sichuan) dish like this was once a bit daunting because of the difficulty of acquiring authentic Szechuan ingredients… but now all these ingredients can easily be purchased on Amazon.  And if you’re looking for a fabulous vegetarian dish, just substitute the seafood with tofu or the faux meat of your choice.  

The tingling mesmerizing qualities of Szechuan peppers, which we use in our Chinese Five Spice powder (recipe included below), is a sensation we associate with authentic meals from this southern region of China, and this meal is far more compelling with it included.  The Chinese characters for Szechuan peppers translates to “numb hot”… which is a perfect description of what happens in your mouth when you eat them. 

This Black Bean Sauce is crazy spicy and addictive.   Enjoy!


2 pounds seafood in their shells, any combination of shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mussels, oysters or scallops
1 large or 2 smaller red bell peppers, cut in half and then sliced into 1 inch strips
2 tablespoons of peanut oil or coconut oil
1/4 cup of Black Bean Sauce per pound of seafood (see the recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon of salt


In a large wok, heat the oil until it just begins to smoke and add the bell peppers, stirring often until they are just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle on the salt.

Add the seafood and stir until just heated, about 2 minutes. Now add the Black Bean Sauce, 1/4 cup per pound of seafood, and stirring often, fry until the seafood is fully cooked, glossy and hot with oils and sauce.

Serve with Jasmine rice or Pad Thai noodles.

Homemade Hoisin Style Black Bean Sauce

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons black bean and garlic sauce (we use Lee Kum Kee)  
1/4 heaping cup fermented black beans (rinsed and crushed), available on Amazon
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine, available on Amazon
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (Chinkiang Vinegar is wonderful in this dish and completely authentic, available on Amazon)
3 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon authentic Chinese Five Spice powder
3 tablespoon fermented chili paste, called Toban Djan, Lee Kum Kee brand is very good, and also Soeos brand (or you can use sriracha sauce)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder or 5 garlic cloves, crushed

Mix well, heat on low until just barely a simmer, remove from the heat, store in the refrigerator.   Use a quarter cup per pound of seafood.

Authentic Chinese Five Spice Powder

2 heaping tablespoons Szechuan peppers
1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
9 whole star anise
8 whole cloves
1 two inch stick of cinnamon

Combine all the spices in an 8 inch saute pan and heat on low to medium until fragrant.

Remove, allow to cool and grind in a spice grinder.