Also known as Yardlong Beans, these are a staple in Chinese markets. They are also great fun for kids – I tell them they’re “Jack and the Bean Stalk” beans because of their unusual length. Fresh from the garden, they were more tender than those from the store because we picked them fresh at only about 18″ long. Rather than searching my Chinese cookbook collection for a recipe, I found one online by famed restaurateur/chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (he’s been serving Chinese food for decades in his NYC restaurant Vong). I modified his recipe somewhat, since Pop taught me to blanch Chinese long beans in oil to cook through their tough skin.
The result was delicious! The beans had a much meatier taste and texture than American green beans. The onions and red bell pepper added an umami savoriness that plain stir-fried beans don’t have.
Since I knew I’d be using a small pot of oil to blanch the beans, I used the oil first to puff up a batch of instant sizzling rice cakes that we had as an appetizer with a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad. The beans were a delicious accompaniment to the perfectly grilled marinated chicken breasts Roger prepared. Watermelon closed out the tasty, healthy meal. Yum!
Chinese Long Beans with Cracked Black Pepper
Recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, modified by Rod Chu
2 cups peanut oil
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 pounds Chinese long beans, washed and thoroughly towel dried, cut into 3-inch lengths
1 medium red bell pepper, peeled (see note) cut into 1/3-inch dice
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Heat the peanut oil in a small saucepan to 375°. Blanch the beans in the hot oil, a handful at a time, until they begin to blister (30-60 seconds). Drain and set aside each batch while blanching the rest of the beans.
Saute the onion in 1 T oil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add red pepper and stir-fry to soften the pepper, about 1 minute. Add the long beans and stir-fry until the beans are slightly softened and browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and stir to coat. Add the water, cover and cook over moderately low heat until the water has evaporated and the beans are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce and cracked pepper and cook for 1 minute. Adjust sugar and soy sauce to taste. Transfer to a platter and serve.
Next time, I’ll try adding a couple of cloves of minced garlic.
NOTE: Peeling bell peppers
There are two basic methods for removing the tough outer membrane from bell peppers. The classic method is to roast the peppers over a gas flame, searing the skin until it’s black in spots. I used a long handled barbecue fork to hold the whole pepper, skewered through the stem end, over the flame of Sherran’s industrial range burner. However, I found the skin rather tedious to remove when seared this way. (I recall another tip was to put the seared whole pepper into a paper bag to rest to loosen the skin; I didn’t have a bag handy nor the time to try this time.)
The easier method I’ve used is from Thomas Keller’s (of The French Laundry and Per Se restaurant fame) recipe for Ratatouille, from the movie: Heat oven to 450°. Halve, seed and de-vein the bell pepper. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and dice. This works well for doing multiple peppers, since they can all be done at once. However, I didn’t want to heat up the oven for just one pepper this time.