Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. This is how you'll spot Chinese long beans at the market. These ridiculously long beans are cut into short lengths before cooking.
This relative of the cow pea is also known as the yardlong bean. Though it's possible for these green beans to reach a yard long, they should be harvested when they're tender and just about 12 inches. You get a big bang for your buck with these beans. They're such vigorous growers in the heat of the summer that they may require daily harvesting/checking. Long beans grow in pairs and dangle down interestingly from the plant, making the harvesting easy (and probably fun for kids too!). The vining plants should have a trellis or some other sort of structure to climb and will happily grow to about 10 feet in length. In milder zones, a string to climb might be sufficient, while in a warmer area, a sturdier trellis is necessary.
Chinese cooks tend to stir fry these beans and prefer them to a Western green bean because they're sturdier and hold up to stronger sauces and the high heats of a wok. In restaurants, they're often deep fried in oil first - till they just begin to wrinkle up, then drained, and finally stir fried. The frying in the first step helps to preserve the sweetness and bright color of the bean. The recipe below is a typical long bean stir fry. My kids, who detest anything not a broccoli (go figure), LOVE Chinese long beans cooked this way. In fact, I'm usually looking at a near empty plate by the time dinner is ready since the kids come in stealthily snatching beans while the rest of dinner is being prepared. I'll allow this, since they're actually eating something green, but I just need to find out where they're wiping their hands!
***Though I'll still give a general idea, I'm no longer giving exact measurements for ingredients in my recipes unless it's truly important. Much of Chinese cooking is based on experience and personal taste, so getting out the measuring cups and spoons and freaking out about 1/8th of a teaspoon here and there is a waste of time and effort.***
Chinese Long Beans with Garlic and Dried Olive (serves 4 as a side dish)
About 4 Chinese dried olives*, chopped
About 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 large handfuls of Chinese long beans, cut into 2-3 inch lengths
Soy sauce to taste
Small pinch of sugar (optional)
Stir fry beans in oil in a hot wok until slightly wrinkled. Add olives and garlic. Continue to stir fry until garlic begins to turn golden. Add a drizzle of soy sauce and a pinch of sugar (if desired...a tiny pinch of sugar often balances the dish in Chinese cooking). Stir and serve.
*Chinese dried olives are available at specialty markets and at most Asian supermarkets. They're a bit different from a Mediterranean olive in that they're almost like a preserved plum - a touch tart. Beans are delicious fried with just garlic, but if you can find the olives, they'll make the dish.
But wait! There's more!!! Act now and I'll send you a few seeds just for being a valued reader!!! See my last post for details!