Calves’ Liver with Spicy Black Bean Sauce

The sturdy flavour and distinct taste of liver almost demands something as spicy as Chinese black bean sauce. This delightful recipe is an delicious alternative to the usual liver with onions.

The dish is easy to make. Liver should never be overcooked; it should remain moist, soft in texture and slightly pink in colour. Thus, the stir-frying time is quite short, which means you can quickly make this dish the centre attraction of a nutritious menu.


  • 450 g (1 lb) fresh calves’ liver
  • Cornflour, for dusting

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • tablespoons coarsely chopped black beans
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh root ginger
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chilli bean sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Chicken Stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil


Cut the calves liver into thin slices 7.5 cm (3 in) long. Mix together the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the liver slices and coat them thoroughly with marinade. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Remove the liver slices from the marinade and dust with cornflour, shaking off any excess.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the liver and stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Re-heat the wok, adding 1 tablespoon of oil, then add the black beans, garlic, ginger, spring onions and shallots. A few seconds later add the rest of the ingredients. When the sauce comes to the boil, return the liver to the wok or pan and toss it well, coating it with the sauce. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, turn it on to a warm platter and serve at once.