Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
For some reason, green beans (string beans, French green beans) seem to be the one vegetable that I can buy from every grocery store at a decent price during quarantine. Needless to say, we’ve been eating a ton of green beans. The most famous preparation of green beans 四季豆 (sì jì dòu, literally “four season beans”) in China is undoubtedly dry-fried, or 干煸 (gān biān). The “dry” part of dry frying indicates that no liquid is added during cooking. (Steam frying is faster, but it results in bland and water-logged green beans.)
You can find this dish, 干煸四季豆 listed as “Dry-Fried Green Beans” or “Sauteed String Beans” on the menu of almost any Chinese restaurant. Good restaurant dry-fried green beans are deep-fried first to drive off the moisture in the beans, which leads to a crisp, blistered green bean that absorbs all of the flavors of the aromatics in the stir fry. Like my Sichuan “Fish Fragrant” Eggplant recipe, there is a secret to authentic Dry-Fried Green Beans at home to avoid the hassle and oiliness of deep frying. I blanch the green beans in salted water until they’re bright green, then cook them low and slow in a dry wok to drive off the moisture. The result is a blistered, golden, crisp, and flavorful green bean packed with Sichuan málà flavor.
I’ve tested my blanched version at home against both shallow-fried and deep-fried versions, and this one comes out on top. If you too find yourself with an abundance of green beans, give this dish a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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The Secret to Perfect Green Beans: Blanch & Dry Wok
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil on high heat (460°F = 10.0 on the Duxtop induction). While the water is heating, wash and trim 1 lb green beans, breaking each green bean in half so you have ~2″ segments. Try to pick young, crisp green beans. If yours are a bit stringy, you’ll want to remove the ribs (the “strings” on either side) as you’re trimming them.
Salt a pot of water as if you were cooking pasta — I used 2 tsp salt in 8 cups of water. Once the water is at a rolling boil, drop half the green beans in and cook them until they are bright green and about 70% cooked (~90 seconds). The water should be back to a rolling boil by now, and the beans should still taste a bit raw.
Remove the blanched green beans with a spider, shaking off as much excess moisture as you can, and add them to your stir fry pan on low heat. I use a carbon steel flat-bottom wok with the induction on 200°F = 3.0. There should be minimal oil in your stir fry pan; I wiped my wok with a couple drops of canola oil on a paper towel just so it wouldn’t be squeaky.
Repeat with the remaining green beans. Once all the green beans are blanched, you can turn up the heat just a bit (240°F = 4.0 on the induction) and add 1/4 tsp of salt. You’ll want to give the green beans in the wok an occasional stir so that they cook evenly. The goal here is to cook them low and slow so that all the moisture in the green beans cooks off. This will be slower than deep frying, but we can use the time to prep our aromatics below.
When the green beans are blistered, crisp, and cooked through (about 10 minutes), remove them from the heat and set aside. The green beans in the last photo above are just starting to blister; you’re done when most of them get to there.
Mise En Place – Aromatics 准备辅料
The aromatics for this dish are straightforward. While the beans are dry frying (don’t forget to give them a quick toss every couple minutes!), prep your aromatics. Mince 3 cloves of garlic and a few slices of ginger (2 tsp minced). Slice a few hot peppers (to your own heat tolerance, I used 2 medium Indian green chilies). Cut 6 dried red chilies into 1/4-inch segments (use scssors). Measure out 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns. Set all of the aromatics aside.
Stir Fry 炒四季豆
Heat your stir fry pan to medium (280°F = 5.0 on the Duxtop induction) and add 2 tsp of oil. Add 1/3 lb of ground pork, preferably with higher fat content like pork belly. You could also use ground beef here, preferably 80/20. I couldn’t find ground pork at the store during quarantine, so I ground (very lean) pork loin at home myself.
Break up the ground pork with your spatula and add 1/2 tsp light soy sauce. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add all of your aromatics, and cook, tossing continuously, until they are fragrant and golden brown.
Turn your heat to medium-high (6.5 on the Duxtop induction). Add an additional 2 tsp of oil (you can use less if your ground meat rendered out enough fat). Wait a few seconds for the oil to come to temp, and add your blistered green beans. Cook, tossing continuously, until the green beans are golden-brown and starting to shrivel in places. Add 0.25 tsp kosher salt, 0.25 tsp granulated sugar, and 1 tsp light soy sauce. Keep cooking and tossing until all of the soy sauce has absorbed (~2 minutes). Drizzle 1/2 tsp of Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar) around the sides of the pan, and toss to combine. Turn off the heat, plate it up, and enjoy!
If you love spicy green beans, don’t forget us to leave us a comment below. Tag us on Instagram at #thericelover to share what you’ve made!
Wine Pairing for Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
I love Alsatian gewurztraminer with spicy Chinese food. It’s especially well-suited to the characteristic numbing spicy 麻辣 málà of Sichuan dishes like these Dry-Fried Green Beans. The predominant flavors are fruit (lychee), floral (rose), and spice (ginger), which combine to give it a sweeter flavor than the residual sugar would suggest.
Alsace in Northeastern France on the border of Germany and Switzerland, is the largest grower and my favorite expression. Gewürz is a relatively rare grape globally, and Alsatian wines have only just started gaining broader popularity in the US. Compared to other white wines, gwurztraminer is deep and vibrant in color. The best bottles, especially late harvest Vendages Tardives with highly concentrated sugars, can be aged for many years; they become deeply aromatic and golden.
Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans 少油正宗 干煸四季豆
- Large pot for blanching green beans, min. 3 quarts (Dutch oven, stock pot, soup pot)
- 1 lb green beans washed and trimmed to ~2" segments 四季豆，450克（折成两段）
- 6 oz ground pork or ground beef 碎猪肉，170克
- 8 cups water (for blanching) 2000毫升（用来焯水）
- 2.5 tsp salt 食用盐，10克
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns 花椒，0.5茶勺
- 2 medium hot green chilies sliced 辣椒，2根
- 2 tsp ginger minced 姜末，2茶勺
- 3 cloves garlic minced 蒜末，3颗
- ¼ tsp sugar 白糖，1克
- 4 tsp cooking oil 菜油，20克
- 1 ½ tsp light soy sauce 生抽酱油，8克
- ½ tsp Chinkiang (Chinese black) vinegar 镇江香醋，3克
- Bring 8 cups of water and 2 tsp of salt to a rolling boil in the large pot. After the water boils, heat the stir fry pan on very low heat (200°F Duxtop induction 3.0)
- Blanch half the green beans in the salted water until bright green and 70% cooked (~90 seconds). Remove the green beans and drain well, and add to the stir fry pan. Repeat with the remaining green beans.
- Add 0.25 tsp of salt to the green beans, and optionally turn the heat up slightly to medium low (240°F induction 4.0). Cook the green beans, stirring occasionally, until blistered, crisp, and fully cooked (~10 minutes); set aside.
- Turn the heat up to medium (280°F induction 5.0) and 2 tsp of oil to the pan. When the oil comes to temp, add ground meat and 0.5 tsp light soy sauce to the pan. Break up the meat with the spatula, and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
- Add aromatics to the ground pork, and stir fry until fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium-high (340°F induction 6.5), and add the remaining 2 tsp of oil. When the oil comes to temp, add the blistered green beans. Stir fry, tossing continuously, until the green beans are golden-brown and starting to shrivel in places.
- Add sugar, remaining 0.25 tsp of salt, and remaining 1 tsp light soy sauce, and keep tossing until fully absorbed, ~2 minutes. Add Chinese black vinegar around the side of the pan, and toss to combine.
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