sichuan dry-fried green beans
The Cantonese aren’t particularly creative when it comes to vegetables, with the typical menu offering a selection of greens stir-fried with garlic or blanched and served with oyster sauce. Our Sichuanese cousins however really kick it up a notch, adding a host of spices that make their vegetarian dishes sing. Fish-Fragrant Aubergines, although not strictly vegetarian, are easily my favourite but these Sichuan Dry-Fried Beans are a very close second. Traditionally the dish includes minced pork and pickled mustard greens (ya cai) but I actually prefer this version which manages to deliver bags of flavour with only a few humble ingredients. It’s also a cinch to make, so rather useful when cooking up a Chinese meal for a few to share. They’re so tasty though that I’d happily rustle up a full portion and eat them on their own with a large bowl of steaming jasmine rice.
Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
(adapted from Fuschia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cookery)
serves 3-4 (with other dishes)
300g (2/3 lb) french beans, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths
2 spring onions (whites only), thinly sliced
3 cm (1″) ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 dried sichuan chillies*, cut in half
1/2 tsp sichuan peppercorns
4 tbsp groundnut oil
Heat 3 tbsp of the groundnut oil in a wok of large frying pan over a medium flame. Add the prepared beans and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes until tender and cooked through, with slightly puckering skins. Remove from pan and set aside.
Pound the Sichuan peppercorns with a pestle and mortar until coarsely ground.
Wipe the wok down and add the remaining oil, and pop back on the heat, turning the flame up to high. Add the chillies and sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a minute or so, then throw in the garlic, ginger and spring onion. Stir- fry until fragrant and the ginger strands and garlic slivers have crisped up a little (it adds a nice crunch to the dish). Return the beans to the pan and toss to combine. Season with salt to taste.
Serve with steamed rice (and other Chinese dishes).
* if you can’t find any of the Sichuan variety just replace with whatever you have readily available (I often use dried Kashmiri chillies when frying up the beans and the dish doesn’t suffer for it at all).