On busy weeknights when I want dinner on the table in less than half an hour, vegetable stir-fries become the default meal. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, eggplants and asparagus are the usual choices but I’ve added a new vegetable to rotation recently–string beans (also known as Chinese long beans). They are not exactly new to me as string beans are very common in Asian cuisine but my husband has never been fond of green beans in general–he finds them lacking in flavor–so I’ve dutifully tried to keep our menus clear of them. But because I happen to like them, I’ve snuck them into a meal once or twice only to be gently reminded:
“I don’t like green beans.”
He will always make an exception for this dish and whenever I roast them. Plain green beans drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and a little crushed garlic then roasted for a few minutes in the oven–much like the way I prepare asparagus–have changed his tune. His dislike has turned into appreciation but I knew that brussels sprouts were in no danger of being ousted from their top spot as his favorite vegetable.
When I spotted string beans at the market a couple of weeks ago I put them in my cart without a second thought. It had been far too long since I last had them and I knew I had one or two of our default vegetables at home–making two separate dishes one night wasn’t going to be much trouble. I stir-fried just enough for one, looking forward to tasting the natural sweetness of the string beans enhanced by ginger and my homemade chili sauce.
If you’ve not tried them before, string beans, though thinner, have more of a bite than regular green beans; I also think they are more flavorful. They are ideal for stir-fries because they can stand up against high heat and don’t go limp very easily.
I had a bowl of rice ready to be topped with my stir-fry but guess who ended up eating it? He said the aroma of the ginger, garlic and chili paste led him to the kitchen. He stole a bite as I spooned the beans onto my bowl and being a complete sucker for his murmurs of appreciation, I found myself offering him my dinner instead. I had the brussels sprouts that night but it’s okay. He is now a string bean convert and I’ve made this same dish three more times since—for two, of course.
* Because of the small amount of vegetarian “oyster” sauce added to this dish, it allows for the ginger, garlic and chili sauce to caramelize, adding lots of depth for a dish that takes so little time to cook. Don’t be afraid of the pan turning them into brown bits. Just add water or stock to deglaze. This is where all the flavor is.
- 12-16 oz (3/4 - 1 lb) string beans (or regular green beans), rinsed, ends trimmed and cut in 1 - 1½ inch pieces
- 1 knob, peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tablespoon chili paste
- 2 teaspoons - 1 tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce
- splash stock or water
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the grated ginger, garlic and chili paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic burn.
- Add the string beans to the pan, turn up the heat to high and also add the oyster sauce. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender and slightly charred. You can also add a splash of water or stock to the pan then cover it to let the beans cook a bit faster. You just don't want the garlic and ginger to brown too fast but expect to see some caramelization while the beans cook--this will lend a lot of flavor. If you do see some premature browning, deglaze the pan with a bit of water and/or lower the heat. Serve over steamed rice.