Monday, February 4, 2013
Gan Bian Dou Jiao (Dry-Fried Green Beans)
Dry-fried string beans, Gan bian dou jiao (or gan bian si ji dou), is genuinely in the running for my single favorite dish in the entire world. I'm not ever actually going to commit to having a single favorite dish, but if I had to, this might be it.
I couldn't leave Beijing without learning to make these, because I feared I would never see them again. (Or at least not see them again in a way I'd recognize.) This recipe serves two with rice and is adapted from Chunyi Zhou of the Hutong Cooking School in Beijing.
Start with about a pound of string beans. Long beans are my favorite for this, but regular green beans work just fine. Snap the ends off and de-string the beans if necessary, then cut them into pieces about 2.5 inches (6 centimeters, or about the length of my pinky) long.
Stir-fry the beans on high heat for about 10 minutes, or until the outside of the bean becomes wrinkled and some of them are a bit browned in places. Depending on the size of the wok and the amount of beans, it might be easiest to work in batches.
I was lazy and roasted them on high on the top rack of my oven, tossing them once to make sure they were cooked on all sides. That didn't work as well. Stir-frying the beans usually makes them so they're a bit less cooked and still crisp on the inside, while nice and caramelized and crispy on the outside. Roasting them works in a pinch, but the end result is softer and less crisp than I prefer, so I'd recommend doing them in the wok.
Next take about two rounded tablespoons of ground pork and marinate it for about 15 minutes with 1tsp of rice wine and 1 tsp of light soy sauce. (Note: I don't mean low-sodium or low-calorie soy sauce. "Light" and "dark" refer to color and consistency. What you normally see on a table is light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is a thicker consistency and is used to add color to dishes.)
Mince 1 tsp ginger, four cloves of garlic, and the white parts of two spring onions. You'll also need 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns and about 8 or so dry chilis. Cut the chilis into pieces and get rid of the seeds. (Leave some seeds in if you like it spicy. Nick likes to leave all the seeds in, which has the effect of burning the eyes, throats, and lungs of anyone anywhere in the apartment.)
You'll also need 2 tablespoons of yacai. Yacai are a type of preserved vegetable from Yibin in Sichuan, and they make all the difference in this dish. If you can't find this stuff, I've had decent luck substituting other kinds of pickled vegetables, but the real stuff is better. Check your local Asian grocery store, or sometimes they're online. (I got some at Posharpstore.com when I couldn't find any in my neighborhood.)
Set the burner to low if you're in China, and to medium-high if you're anywhere else. Add a bit of oil to the wok and add the ground pork, stirring quickly with a metal spatula to make sure the pork separates.
When the pork has changed color and is all separated into nice little balls, add the chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns. Mix them together and cook until the chilis darken to a nice reddish brown. (Don't blacken them.)
If you're wondering why I'm not using a wok in these pictures, it's because the wok was dirty and I didn't feel like cleaning it.
Add the ginger, garlic, and spring onion and mix well until they become fragrant. Then add the yacai and mix well again.
Add the green beans, and mix well. Then add 2/3 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and mix well for one or two minutes.
Then remove the pan from the heat, drizzle the beans with a little bit of sesame oil (just about half a teaspoon or less. A little goes a long way.) Mix the beans, then serve.