I made Cook’s Illustrated’s Sichuan Green Beans quite a few years ago, and it’s been a family favorite ever since. Actually, that’s not true – it is now a family favorite but it was one of those recipes that I had to serve multiple times before my kids started to like it. Now they love it!
It involves a slightly spicy sauce with blackened green beans and ground pork or beef, with lots of ginger and garlic. We eat it over short grain brown rice, and I love that it’s a pretty simple meal but with lots of vegetable matter. I once told a friend who’d been to China that I didn’t really know if it was authentic or not since I’ve never had it elsewhere, but she said she thought it tasted pretty legit!
I’ve modified the recipe a bit from the original, so here’s how I fix it for my family of seven:
Stir-Fried Sichuan Green Beans
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like Aleppo chile flakes, which you can buy at Savory Spice Shop)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pound ground pork or 90% lean ground beef
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced thin
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
In small bowl, whisk soy sauce, sherry, sugar, cornstarch, pepper flakes, mustard, and water together until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.
Heat oil in heavy skillet with lots of surface area over high heat until just smoking. Add green beans and saute, stirring frequently, until they are blackened in spots, then remove green beans from skillet. (You may need to do this in multiple batches to keep from crowding the pan too much.)
Reduce heat to medium-high and cook ground meat in now-empty skillet. Once meat is cooked through and starts to get crispy on the edges, add the garlic and ginger and saute, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Re-whisk sauce until combined and add to skillet with meat mixture, stirring to combine. Cook for about a minute until sauce starts to thicken; then add green beans and toss with tongs until all ingredients are coated thoroughly with sauce.
Remove from heat and add sesame oil, sesame seeds, and scallions. Serve over brown rice. (The seeds and scallions could be added to each serving individually.)
A Few Tips
I use a Microplane grater for ginger. It grates so much easier when frozen – I just put it in the freezer in the plastic produce bag and pull it out when I need it. If you let it thaw for a few minutes, it’s easier than straight out of the freezer (but really, just a few minutes).
I got a big cast iron skillet for Christmas and this is now what I use to blacken the green beans, as it has lots of surface area and holds its heat well. I use a different stainless steel skillet to cook the beef and add the sauce because I don’t like cooking sauces in cast iron, plus it allows me to simultaneously start cooking the meat and beans.
It cook me awhile to get the hang of blistering the green beans. It’s not crucial that every bean be blackened on each side; you want there to still be a bit of crunch to them, so don’t obsess about a few spots that didn’t get blackened. The above picture is of a batch that is almost done, but I let it cook just a few minutes more.
I just noticed that the original recipe calls for cutting the green beans into 2-inch pieces, which I clearly didn’t do in these photos, but it does make it easier to eat when they’re cut in half (I just got in the habit of not cutting them).
Also, I’ll insert that the green beans that should be used in this recipe should be the regular “garden green beans” that you can buy by the pound. Sam’s Club carries French-style green beans that we absolutely love as a side dish but they aren’t the right kind for Sichuan Green Beans.
The green bean part of this recipe is by far the most time-consuming, so sometimes I will cut the green beans in advance, or even saute them and then refrigerate until I’m ready to use them.
We also like to top this dish with mung bean sprouts sometimes; they add an additional crunch that’s really great. Recently I’ve only been able to find them at Sprouts; King Soopers seems to have stopped carrying them.