One thing I can't do without, and that you'll always find in my refrigerator, is a jar of black bean sauce. I use it a lot whenever I'm making Chinese-inspired dishes, especially stir fry. It gives your dishes a hearty, distinct flavor. And it's pretty salty, so just a tablespoon in whatever you're making will probably do the trick. You'll see me put this ingredient in a lot of recipes I'll be posting in the near future.
Black bean is a staple in Chinese cooking. In the old days, people would buy dried black beans that are salted and then soak them overnight to soften. Then when they're ready to use it, they grind it up into a paste, sometimes with crushed garlic. But now, the sauce is made for you in a jar. And luckily you can pretty much find it at any grocery store. I usually buy mines from a grocery store in Chinatown because it's still cheaper, but in a pinch I can find it in my local Safeway in the Asian foods section. And it seems like this Lee Kum Kee brand has cornered the market on black bean garlic sauce. I see this brand everywhere, which is fine because it is one of the best makers of Chinese food products.You can keep this jar in your pantry if you haven't opened it. Once you open it for use, then keep it refrigerated. It can last in your refrigerator for months, but I use it up much faster than that. :)