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 (or Szechuan, if you prefer) 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 ton 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.
My good-enough-for-publishing recipe in this post can be considered vegetarian, depending on whether you consider dried shrimp meat. (Or maybe I’m just turning incredibly Chinese: “Oh, you don’t eat meat? Don’t worry…it’s just chicken.”) Some versions use minced pork in addition to dried shrimp, and some avoid both. For dried shrimp, make sure to get the kind that’s bigger, pinkish, and more expensive, not the cheap itty bitty gray ones.
Sichuan preserved vegetable (mustard root pickled in salt and chillis) can usually be found in Chinatown supermarkets, in either cans or individual packages. Just rinse in cold water and finely chop for this dish.
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. I also use a little chilli bean sauce at the end to add a bit of moisture back in, although soy sauce also works well.
And remember to dry your green beans well before cooking. Nothing ruins an appetite like splotchy painful burn marks on your arms from splattering oil.
Bonus Olympic Update: A friend went to a US vs. China basketball game and was able to photograph the Bushes in the stands. Test your politician ID skillz in this How Many World Leaders Do You Recognize? photo.
Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal, or 2 as a main dish
- 3/4 pound green beans
- 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Sichuan preserved vegetable (optional), finely chopped
- 5 or 6 dried red chillis
- 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced or grated ginger
- 3 scallions, white parts chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1/2 tablespoon 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 very well. (Even a small amount of water will cause oil in the wok to splatter.) Cut the beans into 2-inch lengths.
- Prepare the sauce: stir together the sherry, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add green beans and stir-fry, keeping the beans constantly moving, for about 7 minutes, or until the outsides begin to blister and the beans are wilted. Turn off the heat, remove the green beans and set them aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and reheat the wok. Add dried shrimp, Sichuan preserved vegetable, red chilis, garlic, ginger, and scallions; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the salt over the beans and stir to combine, adjusting the seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a serving plate and serve while hot.
Recipe updated March 16, 2011.