I've now tried three recipes for Sichuanese green beans. The first, from Bill and Cheryl Jamison's book Around the World in 80 Dinners, was terrible. The Jamisons called the recipe "wok-charred beans" but instructed me to cook the pork first and then add the beans to the wok. The presence of the pork crowded the wok and allowed no opportunity for the charring and wrinkling characteristic of the beans in this dish. That recipe also incorporated large, anise-scented Chinese olives, which I don't much care for. Fuschia Dunlop's recipe is better, and the simplest of the three. But I loved the use of ginger, scallions, Chinkiang black vinegar and chicken stock in the version in Grace Young's Breath of a Wok. (The Jamisons' version used chicken stock and black vinegar as well.) Then I missed the ya cai in Dunlop's recipe, so I added that as well (obviously optional if you don't have any). I believe the directions below employ the best of the three recipes. Young comments that this dish reaches full flavor after sitting for a few hours, which makes it an ideal make-ahead dish for dinner guests.
1. Combine 1/4 chicken broth, 1 T. sugar and 1 tsp. salt in a small bowl.
2. Heat the wok, swirl in 2 T. peanut oil and add 1/2 lb of green beans. Reduce the heat to medium and pan-fry, turning the beans until they are wrinkled with brown spots. Transfer to a plate and repeat with another 1/2 lb. of beans.
3. Add 2 T. minced ginger and 2 ounces of ground pork to the empty wok and stir-fry, breaking up the pork until it has lost almost all its pink color. Add 2 T. ya cai and stir-fry another minute. Swirl in the broth mixture and add the beans, tossing to combine, and cook a couple more minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in 1 T. Chinkiang vinegar, 1 tsp. sesame oil and 2 thinly sliced scallions. Remove from heat and serve hot or at room temperature.
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