When I was a kid, I heartily disliked green-beans and I never really changed my opinion much over the years. I liked them raw, actually, as they taste quite a bit like snap-peas in that state, but, once cooked, especially by boiling, the nice sweetness of the raw product disappeared. Fresh ones were the best, if I had to eat them, but the frozen sort were rarely very good and the canned (which were all we ever got in school dinners) were nothing less than disgusting.
Once I discovered the Sichuan method of dry-frying beans, however, I found a way where I could genuinely enjoy this vegetable. In this cookery style, the beans are first quickly fried (nowadays mostly by briefly deep-frying) and then they are stir-fried a second time along with various ingredients (commonlya little ground pork, or dried shrimp) and the sort of seasoning such as chili paste, scallion and garlic, that you often find in Sichuan dishes. The taste of the fresh, raw article is preserved and the texture is terrific…
As I mentioned above, ‘dry-fried’ green beans are mostly deep-fried for the preliminary cooking step and I only just recent learned that, traditionally, this was accomplished by toasting them in a pan without oil until they blister and just start to darken. I was curious about this and I diverted some of the beans I bought for this post to give it a try. Here, you can see some beans that have been treated this way for about 10 minutes or so over moderate heat.
I am not going to use the toasted beans for today’s recipe and so, right after taking them from the heat, I plunged them into coldwater to stop the cooking and preserve the color. I will likely use them within a day or so for another application.
Here you can see the beans being deep-fried. In most every recipe you come across, this is the preferred method it seems, and I have to say that it is a lot quicker (taking only a couple of minutes at most) and it saves the finicky process of turning them in the pan.
Once fried, the beans take on a very crinkly look and the texture, when first cooked this way, is very nice indeed. Also, while I don’t care for the aroma of boiled green beans very much, the fried variety have a nice, almost smoky, aroma that also comes through in the taste.
Many other ingredients can be used to augment the beans. Today, I am using a little ground beef and some chopped scallion. I have also added some crushed dried chili but this is mostly just for color. For actual heat, I will also be using some of my home-made chili oil.
Just before adding my meat and scallion, I cooked a little garlic paste in some oil (ginger would be nice also), and quickly sauteed the secondary ingredients for a minute or so.
Once my beans were added back to the pan, I also stirred in some chili oil, a little soy sauce, and just a dash of sesame oil. Douban Jiang, or Sichuan Chili-Bean Paste, is a frequent flavoring addition, and you can also add Sichuan Peppercorns, or Sichuan Pepper Oil for a bit of a ‘numbing’ effect. I actually have all three of the aforementioned seasonings on hand but, today, I am keeping it quite simple.
Anyway, you can see the finished dish in the first picture and I have to say that, sometimes, simpler is better. The result here was excellent.
BTW … I used the pan-fried bean a couple of days after the oil-fried ones. I cut them in half and then paired them with some slivered red pepper and onion, which I macerated briefly usinng a little garlic salt. Afterwards, I flash-fried in a little garlic oil with some Bagoong, or Filipino Fermented Shrimp Paste diluted with a little rice wine.
I served my ‘Bagoong Beans’ with some giant shrimp I brushed with chili paste and then dusted with ground cumin and turmeric and then marinated for a while before grilling. … It was all good J