乾煸四季豆 is a Sichuanese dish, whereby green beans are fried once to cook them through, then drained and fried again with flavorings such as garlic, ginger, chilis, and minced pork.
The initial frying step softens the beans in a way that’s completely different from the result that boiling or steaming would produce — like competently-prepared french fries, 乾煸四季豆 isn’t overly greasy when executed well, despite the double frying.
The 乾煸 cooking style translates as “extreme-heat stir-fry”, with the main ingredient cooked “to the point of dehydration” whereby its flavor is strongly intensified. 乾煸四季豆 is not a dish for those who hate green beans — the flavor of the beans should be apparent even through the chilis and other strong flavorings.
Originally made with a green bean-like vegetable called “snake bean” or “yard-long bean”, outside of China it is usually made with the Western-style green bean.
Combining beans with minced pork, this classic Sichuanese dish uses pickled mustard greens called “ya cai” to add an amazingly tangy crunch to the recipe.
Ya cai is a Sichuanese pickle made from the stems of a variety of mustard green. It is sun-dried, rubbed in salt and mixed with spices and sometimes sugar. It is dark brown and sold in packets or jars at selected Asian food shops. If unavailable, you can substitute other pickled mustard greens or pickled radish. If you are left with no other choice, use a tangy cucumber pickle.
My recipe uses a classic alternative to the dry-fry technique – deep-frying. The seasonings I use are classic as well. Citizens, this is a wonderful dish that I hope you will try for yourselves!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 pound green beans, tips cut off
6~10 dried red peppers – I prefer chiles de arbol
½ teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
½ teaspoon fresh ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons of finely chopped ya cai – buy it here
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch root ginger, shredded
2 tablespoons minced scallion, white and light green parts only
⅓ cup minced fatty pork
2 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
Heat wok over a high flame until starting to smoke and add enough canola or peanut oil to deep-fry.
Bring oil temperature to about 350°F (175°C) and deep-fry green beans until most of them have puckered skin. Do not brown them.
Remove and drain on paper towel.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons oil from the wok. Reheat until hot and add pork, breaking it up into crumbles and cooking until it starts to brown. Add dried chili peppers, ya cai, Sichuan peppercorns, scallions and ginger and continue stir-frying.
Add Shaoxing wine, soy sauce and sugar and cook until the pork bits are crispy and the liquid ingredients reduced until almost gone.
Add back the green beans and stir-fry until well-mixed and hot. Add the salt and sesame oil, give a stir, and plate.