Vegetarians, don't run away! I know the photo has meat in it, but I think this dish would be delicious without the meat. Why do I think that? Last November we ate at Chung King out in San Gabriel, California. Our cold appetizer selection included a marinated diced green bean dish — on the right in this photo — that haunts my culinary dreams. I've looked for recipes, but haven't come up with a match, but as a part of my exploratory trip through Land of Plenty I came across this dish that uses pickled green beans and dices them up small. Hmmm...
I have limited patience with dishes that require multiple days to make. I'll do them if motivated enough, but dinner at the end of the workday is usually not one of those times. It speaks to how much I've been craving that bean dish that I actually took the time to make the pickled green beans several days in advance.
And what a pleasant surprise it was to discover just how easy it was to do. I don't have a pickling jar, but I have several glass Planters Peanuts jars (saved for spice storage) that turn out to be just large enough to pickle half a pound of beans.
Our schedule being what it is, my beans ended up sitting for a week in the refrigerator instead of the recommended 1 - 3 days. It didn't seem to do them any harm. The finished dish itself is extremely simple to make. There's no sauce to speak of, just a bit of rice wine and soy sauce in the meat and a few spices. The main flavoring comes from the pickled beans themselves. I loved the salty-vinegary bites of green beans, and I think a meatless version would intensify the flavor of this dish. In any event, Joe and I devoured our beans and pork. My mother would be so proud. When I was a kid, we used to fight over getting me to eat even a spoonful of frenched green beans. I vowed to make a double batch next time because I suspect leftovers might taste even better. I may have to get a larger pickling jar.
Pickled String Beans with Ground Pork (rou mo jiang dou)
Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop
1/2 lb green beans plus pickling solution (see recipe)
1/4 lb ground pork (I used 1/2 lb. and adjusted the marinade accordingly)
1/2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (or med. dry sherry)
1/2 tsp light soy sauce (might not be needed for vegetarian version)
peanut oil for cooking
3 - 4 Sichuanese dried chiles, snipped in half and seeds discarded
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
Several days in advance...
Wash and trim beans and then dry them throughly. Immerse them in pickling solution (recipe below) and leave the picking jar in the refrigerator or a cool place for 1 - 3 days. (Or, if you're me, a week...)
At time of cooking...
Mix pork with Shaoxing rice wine, soy sauce, and 3 generous pinches of salt. Set aside.
Chop green beans into 1/8 inch slices to complement the small grains of the ground pork.
Season wok (i.e. heat on high) then add 1 Tbs peanut oil and heat over a high flame until smoking. Add the pork and stir-fry until it is dry and a little crispy. Tip meat back into marinating bowl. (Don't worry. It'll get cooked a second time.)
Return wok to flame and add 1 Tbs fresh oil. When oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the chiles and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry briefly until fragrant. Do NOT let the spices burn. Add the beans and pork and stir-fry another minute or two until the beans are hot and fragrant. Turn out onto a serving plate.
Kitchen Chick notes: I ended up using 1/2 lb of ground pork (twice the amount) because it was thawed and I needed to use it, so the photograph shows a higher meat ratio than you'd get if you follow the original recipe amounts.
2 1/4 C water
1/4 C rock or sea salt
4 dried chiles
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp strong rice wine or vodka
1/2 of a star anise
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
1/3 of a cinnamon stick or a good piece of cassia bark
Sterilize jar. (Boil in water for 10 minutes, heat in oven for few minutes, or wash in dishwasher. Let cool before using. Note: we're not canning for long term storage, and the beans will be in a brine in the refrigerator.)
Bring water to boil with salt, stirring to dissolve. Set aside to cool. Place cooled water in pickle jar, add other pickling ingredients, and stir. Add clean and dry green beans. If necessary, wedge a small glass or something in the jar to push the green beans down so they are completely immersed. Seal and refrigerate.