Fried Sichuan Green Beans (干煸四季豆, gan bian si ji dou) is one of those amazing dishes that you find in China and wonder why the heck Chinese food restaurants in the states don't catch on and make them! I've found it served in some restaurants in Chinatown New York, but never the Sichuan-style green beans that are so mouth-numbingly spicy and addicting you wonder if there's crack in them. It's always a crowd favorite (seriously, when Nate and I make them for people, we never have leftovers) and way better than a traditional green bean casserole.
The outsides of the beans fry crinkly and crispy and the combination of chiles and Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppercorns burst with Sichuan's signature ma la (mouth-numbingly spicy) flavor.
Sichuan Province is an amazingly beautiful place. With its crisscrossing rivers and vast fertile land the province is known as “the Land of Plenty”. Produce markets (even in the cities) are packed full of beautiful, fresh veggies and farmers from the countryside selling their crops. Farmers in Sichuan today boast harvesting more than 10 percent of all of China’s grains, corn, soybeans, and other food crops, but the province used to be known for growing a different kind of cash crop: opium! As recent as the early 1900s, the entire country of China was largely hooked on the euphoria-inducing plant and Sichuan Province alone was responsible for 40 percent of China's opium crop. The fertile cascading terraced mountains of Sichuan Province were covered with thriving red, white, yellow, and pink poppies . . . growing right next to grean beans and potatoes.
If you travel to Sichuan I don't think there is any better way to experience the beautiful contryside than on a multi-day horsepaback riding trek. Nate and I went on a trek through the breathtaking green terraced mountains and to a glacier named "Ice Mountain." It was one of my most memorable experiences in China. Camping in the Sichuan mountains, Nate and I saw a couple of wild growing poppies. This Songpan region was one of the last places in China to be eradicated of the opium-producing plants during Mao Zedong's anti-narcotics campaign in the 1950s. If you're interested in visiting Sichuan, I suggest taking a horseback trip. The starting point for most treks is in the small town of Songpan. Lonely Planet's website has some good information about getting there and what to expect.
This is our authentic-tasting gan bian si ji dou recipe. I love how it takes me back to Sichuan Province with each bite . . . the SPICY food and lush mountains.The one thing to watch out for when cooking this dish is burning the spices. It's easy to do if you let them cook in the wok too long. Also be prepared for a big whoosh of spicy smoke to fill your house while you're cooking! Don't worry though, it'll disappear soon enough.
Dry Fried Sichuan (Szechuan) Green Beans Recipe
1 pound fresh green beans, ends
trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
Oil, for deep-frying
1/2 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
6 to 10 dried red chiles, seeded and chopped
3 green onions, white parts only, chopped
4 ounces ground pork
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon chicken powder (optimal)
1. Make sure the green beans are dry, with no water clinging to them. Heat 1 inch of oil in a wok over high heat until little bubbles appear around a bean dropped in the oil. Add the green beans and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The bean skins should look crinkly with brown spots. Using a perforated strainer, transfer the beans to paper towels to drain.
2. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok and reheat over medium-high heat. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Drop in the garlic, ginger, chiles, and green onions and stir-fry for 20 seconds (be careful not to burn the spices). Add the pork and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until all the meat is browned. Toss in the green beans, soy sauce, and chicken powder, if using, and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Season with salt to taste and serve.