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I ordered some salt and pepper dishes from a Chinese restaurant. I know how these dishes are prepared because I've made plenty myself. Generally it's a wok-fried mixture of sliced onion, green pepper, spring onion, diced garlic, red chilli, and seasonings mixed with whatever protein (or french fries/chips). It ends up looking like this.

However, in the dishes I received there was a new ingredient I didn't recognise. They were small pieces of something fleshy with a red/brown hue. They had obviously been fried because they were quite oily. Their texture was almost mushy but still holding together - very much like sun-dried tomato (but it wasn't that). Firmer than something like caramelised onion. They tasted quite savoury with a distinct hint of salt but nothing distinctive.

They almost look like scraps of oily batter from a fryer but they weren't that either. Definitely seems like some kind of dried legume or vegetable. Could very well have come out of a jar of chilli oil or something like that because I saw that being used.

If I was forced to guess I might say some kind of processed black bean or soy bean, but they had no real bean-like shape to them; basically they were just little fleshy bits.

Here's a photo showing them beside other ingredients.

enter image description here

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    Where geographically was this restaurant? Takeaway dishes and ingredients vary greatly from country to country.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 17, 2023 at 2:37

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Fermented soy beans are used as a spice in some Chinese cooking. Another possiblity would be tiny dried shrimp which are also used as one would use herbs in Western cooking.

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