I discovered the Szechuan delights of Bar Shu, in London’s Soho, earlier this year, and dreamed about their dry-fried green beans for weeks afterwards. A dish of green beans and pork mince doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the flavour was complex, full and completely addictive. And so after visiting Bar Shu’s sister restaurant, Bar Shan, a few weeks ago and again indulging in the deliciousness of the beans, I decided I needed to learn how to make an approximation of it. A bit of googling revealed that it’s a fairly common Chinese side dish – some Western cooks make it simply with beans, soy sauce, ginger and a bit of pork mince, other more authentic-sounding recipes utilise things like dried prawns and preserved vegetables and a look at Bar Shu’s website reveals that it’s cooked with ya cai – ‘an intensely flavoured preserved mustard green from the Sichuan city of Yibin’. I opted for a slightly exotic though not too scary path, and was fairly pleased with the results, as was A.
Szechaun dry-fried beans
400g pork mice (this is really too much mince for an authentic recipe, but it’s enough to convince a boyfriend that it’s a proper meat-filled dinner, and not just a plate of beans. And it still tastes good. If you want the dish to be more of a side vegetable, you could halve the amount of mince)
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
about 500g green beans (actually I have no idea how much mine weighed, but it doesn’t matter too much – whatever looks enough), halved
1/4 cup Sichuan preserved vegetables, rinsed, finely chopped (I found cans of these in Chinatown for about 60p)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
2cm piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped or grated
Put the pork in a bowl and add the soy sauces, sugar and cornflour. Stir to combine then set aside to marinade. Heat enough vegetable oil to come about 1cm high in the bottom of a wok over high heat. When it’s hot, add about half the beans (or fewer – you don’t want them to be overcrowded and stew). Cook, tossing, until bright green and tender. Drain on paper towels then repeat with the remaining beans.
Drain all the oil from the wok except about a tablespoon then return to the heat. Add the pork mixture and cook, stirring, until browned. Add the chilli, garlic, ginger and preserved vegetables and continue to cook, stirring, until the aromatics are softened and well distributed. Return the beans to the wok and stir to heat through and combine. Serve just as it is, or with steamed rice for a more substantial meal.