Firstly, a belated happy new year! I hope 2013 has been treating you well so far. For me, it has been a good start although I have been putting off blogging since the holidays; so much to share, but I needed something to kick start me again and that happened earlier this week.
The absence of posts is mostly due to the lack of time to experiment since the holidays. Although, I do have a couple of noteworthy holiday recipes to share at some point. Maybe I will save them for later in the year as they aren’t so season appropriate right now!
There has however been some cooking happening and for the most part it has been with a more health conscious focus in mind.
Chinese is one of my favourite cuisines to eat out and the recipe I am sharing is inspired by a very popular Chinese Sichuan dish; a dish I had not tried until a couple of years ago. I was surprised that all these years I had missed this because it is absolutely delicious! Of course, now I order it almost anywhere new I try just to taste the differences and let me tell you there are many! My favourite version of this dry fried green bean dish is when it has pork in it too. What I love about this recipe is that it is delicious to eat on its own if you are omitting carbs in the new year, for example. As well as having a much higher ratio of vegetables to meat than other dishes, it is healthier too. If you use lean mince and the oil a little more sparingly you will still have a dish packed with flavour, texture and lots of deliciousness!
My Sichuan Inspired Gan Bian Si Ji Dou – Fine Green Beans With Pork and Kale
One of my favourite quick weekday dishes. In the past I have also cooked this with duck breast fillets chopped up to a course mince consistency with excellent results. I also add a little more 5 spice powder and sugar when cooking the duck version. This is a delicious alternative to the pork.
1 pack of fine green beans topped and tailed and cut in half (200-300g)
500g lean pork mince (you can also try using duck. Use skinless breast fillets and chop finely to a course mince)
1 bag of curly kale (200g) chopped and any large stems removed
5 cloves of garlic pressed/grated or chopped finely
1 small white onion chopped finely
2-4 green chilies chopped finely (adjust quantity according to taste)
2-4 tbsp dried shrimp chopped finely (if you cannot find this, you may omit)
1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns crushed well
1 good tsp 5 spice powder (a little extra if cooking duck)
1 tbsp red chili flakes (adjust to taste)
3 tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1- 11/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I add this because traditionally preserved greens are added to this dish. The vinegar adds a pleasant balance as a substitute)
3-4 tbsp dark soy sauce (adjust seasoning at the end)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar (adjust to taste- for duck use a little more)
I spring onion chopped finely for garnishing
Check seasoning at the end- you may add a little more soy or salt.
Groundnut or Rice bran oil (or any other oil you may want to use that has a high burning point)
- Heat a large wide based pan.
- Drizzle over 1 tsp of oil over the chopped beans and toss before putting into the hot pan. You just want a light coating on the beans as your aim is to dry fry the beans at a high temperature to retain some texture and colour. Some recipes suggest deep frying the beans, but apart from adding a lot of calories, having tried it, I found I much preferred the fresher taste when just a little oil was used. Cook the beans at a high temperature, tossing them regularly for about 5 mins until they have evenly blistered and soften slightly. When done remove from the pan.
- In the same pan add a couple of tbsp of the oil you are using and add the pork. Fry until you get some colour for a couple of minutes.
- Next add the onions and green chilies. This is something extra I have added in my version. I like the sweetness from the onion and the flavour of the green chili. Fry with the meat until the onions are translucent and have softened.
- Now lower the heat and add in the finely pressed garlic and chopped dried shrimp. If you can’t find the dried shrimp you can just omit it. There really isn’t a substitute You could try to find a chili oil that is made with shrimp paste and omit the red chilies and use that instead. The dried shrimp are usually in the refrigerated section in a Asian supermarket. They come in different sizes, but for this dish any small ones will do. Fry for a minute or two.
- Now you can turn the heat back up and add the liquids and spices- the 5 spice powder, the sugar the Sichuan peppercorns, the red chili flakes, the soy sauce, the rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil and the Shaoxing wine. Stir well as the liquid evaporates. Once it has evaporated check for seasoning. Remember that the beans and kale have no seasoning so you need to add a little extra.
- Finally add the beans back in with the kale leaves (stalks removed) and stir well. You do not need to cook it much- 1-2 mins. You just want the beans warmed again and the kale to wilt slightly. Check seasoning.
- Take off the heat and garnish with spring onions. You can serve this with steamed Jasmine rice for a hearty meal.