I first attempted making Sichuan dry-fried green beans 5 years ago while living in Beijing. Night after night I would have these delicious crispy green beans at Sichuan restaurants alongside dishes like mapo tofu and kung pao chicken, and finally decided I needed to try making them on my own. The results of my first experiments were less than impressive, to put it mildly. Then help came from a fellow blogger back home in NY.
Years later, I still make dry-fried green beans with the same time-tested method, varying the ingredients ever so slightly. Here is a revised all-vegetarian recipe featured in my new cookbook.
Dried-fried green beans is one of my favorite side dishes to order in Sichuan restaurants. In contrast to crisp haricot verts or mushy microwaved diner-style beans, Sichuan-style green beans are blistered and well-cooked without being bland. With Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillis adding spice and smokiness to the flavor profile, this dish becomes positively addictive.
However, no matter how many times I tried to recreate the dish at home, I ended up either burning the green beans before they got cooked, or dumping some water in order to save the beans, the latter which defeats the purpose of dry-frying. For help, I finally emailed Kian from Red Cook. He said that his method is using a fair amount of oil and constantly stirring the beans to get them cooked without burning. Almost like deep-frying. No wonder the green beans in restaurants taste so good.
Some recipes I found also eschew the dried red chills and Sichuan peppercorn, but I find the extra spice adds a needed smoky dimension to the final dish.
Remember to dry your green beans well before cooking. Nothing ruins an appetite like splotchy painful burn marks on your arms from splattering oil.
The 5 or 6 minutes of shallow-frying are important: they allow the green beans to develop not only the characteristic wrinkled and blistery surface, but also a deep, caramelized flavor.
This dry-frying technique lends itself to so many ways to cook green beans. I'm thinking porcini mushrooms and rosemary for an Italian-style crispy green bean dish in the future.
Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
- 3/4 pound green beans
- 1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
- 5 or 6 dried red chilies
- 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger
- 3 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces fresh shiitake or cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili bean sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Rinse the green beans and dry them thoroughly; even a small amount of water will cause oil in the wok to spit. Cut the beans into 2-inch lengths.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the rice wine, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the green beans and stir-fry, keeping the beans constantly moving, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the outsides begin to blister and the beans are wilted. Turn off the heat, remove the green beans, and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and reheat the wok. Add the chilies, Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger, and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another 1 minute, until the mushrooms have browned and started to crisp. Add the sauce. Return the green beans to the wok and stir-fry for another 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and serve hot.
Recipe first published August 11, 2008. Revised June 10, 2013.