This is the second TastyAsia recipe using long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo). The first is here. As I mentioned in the introduction to that recipe, long beans are a bit softer than regular green beans and they have a more intense “bean” flavor to them. That means they stand up well to the rich flavor of well-cured bacon.
Because of their rich taste, long beans are very versatile. They can mingle with strong flavors like bacon, or just carry the weight of a dish on their own. And like almost all dark green vegetables, they supply a great quantity of valuable nutrients for their weight.
Fair warning: This next paragraph is intended only for true vegetable geeks. It’s challenging to define “long beans” precisely. What I’ve used in this recipe is the most common form of long bean in China and one which is also readily available in Chinese supermarkets in the United States, namely 长豆角 (zhǎng dòujiǎo) in Chinese, or Lat. Vigna sinensis var. sesquipedalis. These beans, also called “yard long beans,” can be almost a full yard long (30″) and they have longer and thinner seeds than other variants. But other vegetables sold with the same name, including 豆角 (dòujiǎo) or Vigna sinensis, which is only half as long as var. sesquipedalis; and Vigna unguiculata (饭豆, fàn dòu), also known in English as the cowpea. Making matters worse, some people think that var. sesquipedalis properly belongs under unguiculata instead of under sinensis. Bottom line: not everything sold as a “long bean” is the same vegetable. This recipe was made with 长豆角.
Here are long beans in their native environment (my cutting board):
Slice them into 2″ lengths before cooking.
Have ready a small handful of dried red chiles. Note that the red chiles aren’t meant to be eaten unless you truly love that sort of thing. Even though you don’t eat the chiles themselves, they impart a wonderful spiciness to the dish just by being in the wok.
Now comes the bacon. You can use western or Chinese bacon. The latter is more like ham and has been thoroughly air-cured; it should be softened before using by immersing in water for half a day or by steaming.
First, cook the bacon in your wok until it begins to get brown. Stop the cooking before the bacon dries out and becomes crispy; you also don’t want the fat to render out and become oil. Let the bacon drain on some paper towels.
Then add the beans to the wok and stir-fry until the skins begin to wrinkle. Add the chiles in the last few minutes.
Now all that’s left is to add the bacon back to the wok and stir-fry until everything is heated through. And you’re done!
INGREDIENTS and PREP:
- 1/4 lb Chinese or western bacon (if using Chinese bacon, soften before use, see above), cut into thin strips
- 1/2 lb long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), cut into 2″ lengths
- Small handful (10-15) dried red chili peppers
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon (#1) and stir-fry until lightly golden. Do not overcook. Remove to paper towels to drain.
- Using the bacon fat remaining in the wok, stir-fry the beans (#2) until soft and the skins begins to wrinkle, about 5 minutes. About midway through, add the dried peppers (#3). Stir-fry constantly to prevent burning.
- When the beans are done, turn the heat off and splash in the soy sauce, stir to incorporate, and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.
Variations: As usual, much can be done with this basic recipe. You could add other vegetables to the stir-fry such as leeks, sliced mushroom caps, or even thin strips of bitter melon. You could also substitute spicy bean paste or chile oil for the peppers. Omitting the bacon would drastically alter the recipe, however the taste of long beans is enough that even the bacon isn’t a necessity. Substitute tea-cured tofu or shiitake mushrooms for the bacon.
The essential Chinese pantry is here.