Long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), also called yard-long beans or asparagus beans, are a staple in southern China. Thankfully, their popularity is growing worldwide as well. The beans tend to be a bit thinner and softer than the traditional Western green bean, with a somewhat more intense “bean” flavor. Some say that their taste is reminiscent of asparagus, hence one of their their alternate names. This recipe comes to me via a friend who lives in Chongqing, a southern city in that spicy region between Sichuan and Hunan. Typical of the region, the dish is spicy, warming, and hearty.
This is also another “simple” recipe by TastyAsia standards, meaning that it can be completely finished in the time it takes you to cook the rice. Start with long beans, which are obviously quite long in their natural state:
Cut the beans into bite-sized lengths before cooking.
The other vegetable in this dish is wood ear mushrooms (木耳, mùěr) which need to be in slivers that are about as long as the beans. Wood ears usually come dried, so you can slice them after softening in water. However, the dried mushrooms also come pre-sliced, which is much more convenient:
Note that wood ear mushrooms are sometimes translated as “black fungus” in English, despite the fact that the Chinese name, 木耳, mùěr, literally means “wood ear.” (On the package below, the full Chinese is 黑木耳, hēi mùěr, literally “black wood ear,” translated somewhat inexplicably as black fungus.)
Okay, with that somewhat lengthy introduction out of the way, the recipe itself goes quite quickly.
INGREDIENTS and PREP:
- 1/2 lb long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), cut into 2″ lengths
- 5 dried red chili peppers, snapped into roughly 1/4″ lengths, most of the seeds removed; 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (husks only)
- 3/4 oz dried, sliced wood ear mushrooms (木耳, mùěr), soaked until soft in lukewarm water (about 15-30 minutes); alternatively, soak whole mushrooms and then julienne once soft
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around, then add the beans (#1) and stir-fry for about 5 minutes until heated through and softening just a bit.
- Next add the chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns (#2) and stir-fry for another minute until hot and fragrant. Add the mushrooms (#3) and stir until everything is heated through, about a minute.
- Drizzle the soy sauce (#4) into the wok and stir. Then pour in the sesame oil (#5) and give everything a final, thorough stir until everything is mixed together and hot.
- Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.
Variations: This is obviously a vegan recipe, but you could substitute slivers of pork, bacon, or Chinese sausage for the mushrooms. On the other hand, you could keep it vegan but substitute tea-soaked tofu for the mushrooms.
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