Meatless Monday: Chinese Restaurant-Style Green Beans
You know these green beans. They may have changed your tune about eating vegetables. (They did for me.)
Little did I know 25-or-so years ago while dining at a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia called Tang’s that green beans could be tender and green (not Army brown) and that they could be draped in a sauce other than cream of mushroom soup, a sauce that not only filled the room with a heady perfume but that actually allowed the beans to be beans. Who knew that vegetables could be so delicious and that I’d prefer those beans to my plate of General Tso’s chicken?
Without a doubt, it was an amazing revelation, but one that I always associated with a Chinese restaurant, not my own kitchen. For more than a decade, I let the green beans come to me rather than go to the green beans. Frankly, I was afraid that they’d never measure up to the beans of my dining dreams, that I’d never hit the right notes on the sauce, that it’d be thin and one dimensional, rather than complex and more like a gravy.
Because now I’ve got the goods-- a honest-to-goodness recipe for a rockin’ replica of those revelatory green beans, courtesy of Helen Chen, author of the new “Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries.” Chen should know a thing or two about Chinese home cookin’ -- her mom is the late Joyce Chen, the legendary restaurateur and cooking personality who is credited with popularizing Mandarin Chinese cookery in this country.
Garlicky Green Beans
Adapted from “Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries” by Helen Chen
1 pound green beans, ends snapped off
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce (sold in jars in Asian groceries) or crushed red pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (sold as Shaoxing wine) or dry sherry
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (KOD: You want neutral-flavored oils with a high smoking point, such as peanut, safflower, grapeseed or Canola)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger (about 1-inch hunk)
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions, light parts only
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Snap beans in half. Rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly.
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar, chili-garlic sauce and wine.
In a wok or stir-fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat until oil is hot, but not smoking. Test by dipping the end of a green bean in the oil; it should sizzle. Add green beans and cooking, stirring, for two minutes. Add ½ cup water, stir, and cover the pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender-crisp, 6-9 minutes. Transfer green beans to a shallow platter. (KOD: Drain off remaining water).
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the same pan ad heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger and scallions, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Return green beans to the pan. Re-stir soy sauce mixture, making sure sugar is dissolved, and add to pan. Stir sauced beans constantly for about 60 seconds, or until liquid has nearly evaporated. Drizzle with sesame oil. Serve immediately.
Makes four side-dish servings.
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