Mussels are inexpensive, quick to make and delicious. While many recipes steam mussels in wine or a tomato sauce, I prefer to spice them up with preserved Chinese black beans. I usually make a recipe from Bonnie Stern’s Simply Heartsmart Cooking, but recently saw something similar in the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living. Jarred black bean sauces usually contain additives and preservatives that are off-limits for us, so I substitute preserved black beans. The container shown below cost $1.19 and the beans keep for years. To use, simply rehydrate in a little hot water. I buy mine in Chinatown.

These preserved black beans keep indefinitely

The dried beans; just add a little water to rehydrate

Instead of using water to steam the mussels, try wine or broth. I also added chopped red pepper for colour. Serve with crusty bread spread with hot-sauce spiked yogurt.

Rehydrated beans with ginger, garlic, peppers and parsley

Serve the steamed mussels with crusty bread


2 lbs fresh mussels

¼ cup water

1 tbsp Chinese black bean sauce or rehydrated fermented black beans

1 2-inch piece of gingerroot,

½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced (leave seed in or use whole pepper to increase heat)

¼ cup red pepper, chopped (optional)

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 green onions, cut in 2-inch lengths

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or coriander


Scrub mussels and remove any beards. Discard any that do not close when tapped. In Dutch oven or large saucepan, combine mussels, water, black bean sauce, ginger, jalapeno pepper, red pepper, garlic and onions; stir to coat. Cover and bring to boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until mussels open, about 10 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Remove from heat. Toss with coriander. Serves 2.

Adapted from the October 2010 issue of Canadian Living