Szechuan string beans are one of the staple dishes I always order at restaurants. Growing up in San Diego, I ordered this dish at almost every Chinese restaurant in the city. The crispy puckered skin of the string beans paired with the spicy sauce and crunchy inside of the string beans keep my chopsticks reaching for the next string.
When I moved to the bay area for college and med school, I thought ~ I’m gong to be here for so many years! I need to find a restaurant here that also makes this dish well. Throughout the years, I’ve faithfully ordered this dish at almost every Chinese restaurant I’ve been to, but after four and a half years living in the bay area, still no place can compare to a small restaurant in San Diego that makes this dish best.
So I thought, why not practice making this dish on my own?
The first time I made these I used a pot of oil and dipped the beans in with a wire net, like frying french fries at McDonald’s. Needless to say my beans were so over-fried, it was like eating cardboard. And… I had about 3 cups of vegetable oil left from the process … which was also bean flavored. It took a few months for me to recover from this sad kitchen failure, but after practicing this dish some more, I think this recipe will be the one I make from now on!
In trial and error, I realized that the key to a good bean is to get the wrinkles to come out right, without over-frying the bean (which makes it taste tasteless). When you bite in, the bean should still be kind of crunchy. To get this balance, don’t use too much oil, fry the beans at high heat, and remove them immediately from the pan when they are wrinkled all over. If your pan isn’t very big, you may need to fry in batches, or pick out the done beans on the bottom first so you don’t end up with some well cooked and some over-cooked beans.
It’s also very important to drain the finished beans on a paper towel after frying so the oily taste goes away before you stir the sauce in. The beans pucker in less than 10 minutes (unless you dump a bunch in your stir fry pan at once), so it’s also important to stand by the stove and watch them cook so they don’t over cook. It is also important to keep stirring the beans as they are cooking so that the puckering is even (otherwise the bottom beans are puckered, but the top are not, and the bottom ones may burn black). But for 10 minutes of concentration, you can have the wrinkliest and yummiest crunchy string beans you desire!
- 3 cups cut string beans (cut to 2 inch pieces)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 bottoms of scallions, white part only
- 5 dried chili peppers (red)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce (or try oyster mushroom oyster sauce!)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Wash, cut, and drain string beans in a paper-towel lined bowl.
- Stir in oil, not quite 1/4 cup, coating the bottom of the pan. On HIGH heat, add cut and drained string beans after the oil is sufficiently hot (it'll sizzle when you put a bean in if it is hot enough).
- Stir about till you see nice wrinkles on all the beans (7-8 min for this recipe size). Remove beans from skillet and let drain on a paper towel in a bowl. Dump all but 1 tablespoon oil out.
- Add scallions and garlic, and stir till fragrant on medium-high heat(30 sec).
- Add the sauce, dried chili peppers, and stir for 10-20 seconds until fragrant.
- Add cooked beans, and stir on medium - low heat till beans are well coated.
- Serve hot, with a bowl of rice!
Drain the beans by placing them in a bowl lined with a paper towel, prior to cooking in oil. If the beans have water on them, that will cause popping in the oil which can be messy. Recipe easily doubled!
Make these at home! They’re not as hard as you think and can be made healthy by using less oil for frying. This dish pairs great with the pan fried tofu recipe,
the BBQ pork ribs recipe,
or the General Tso’s chicken!