In Chinese, sometimes we describe a dish as sha fan. The literal translation is down rice, and what we mean is that it goes down well with rice. It pairs so well with rice that it encourages the eating of more rice. These are usually addictive, salty or spicy foods, and the Dried Sardines with Bean Curd is both. I think of this dish as a confetti of aromatics: fish, ginger, garlic, scallion, and fermented black beans. Just sprinkle a little on rice and it goes a long long way.

I love the fishes1

Did you know that these little sardines are incredibly high in calcium? Yup! The traditional Chinese diet doesn’t have much dairy so the main source of calcium is from stuff like fish bones, shrimp shells, and bone stocks. Dried sardines (they’re well salted) can be found in most Asian groceries in the dry goods section.

pack of dried sardines

While I am usually adamant about eating my food piping hot, this is a special and rare case where it is best at room temperature. It’s even better if you make it a day ahead, store in the fridge for flavors to come together, then bring to room temperature, and serve on top of hot white rice for a temperature contrast. The sardines and bean curd also add a texture, two different kinds of chewiness against the soft fluffy rice.

Dried Sardines and Bean Curd on Rice 6

In case you’re wondering who ate the three bowls of Dried Sardines with Bean Curd over rice, that would be me. What I do for food styling…

Dried Sardines with Bean Curd
~about 5 cups

  • 1 (6oz) pack dried sardines (small or kaeri size)
  • 1 rounded tablespoon fermented black beans
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil + more if needed
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 5 dried red chilies, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 oz dry bean curd, cut into thin strips

Instructions -

1. Rinse sardines with cold water. Drain and set aside. Rinse fermented black beans with cold water 3 times. Drain and place in a small bowl. Mash them with the back of a spoon. Mix in soy sauce and set aside.

scallionm gingerm garlic, bean curd mashed fermented black beans
dried sardines rinsed and draining chopped dried red chilies

2. Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large wok over medium heat. Fry fish until golden, stirring constantly, about 6 minutes.

3. Stir in scallion, chilies, ginger, and garlic. Toss for 1 minute.

dried sardines stir-fried with aromatics 2

4. Add rice wine and sugar. Toss and stir. Add black bean/soy sauce mixture. Stir. Add bean curd and toss until evenly distributed. If it looks dry, add a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil and toss together.

5. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Serve over rice. *It will keep in the fridge for at least 1 week.

3 bowls Dried Sardines and Bean Curd on Rice 2

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