A Stir-Fry That Brings Out the Best in Green Beans

A Stir-Fry That Brings Out the Best in Green Beans

A Good Appetite

Fresh and crisp, they’re a lean counterpart to rich, brawny pork in this garlicky, gingery, spicy dish.

Coming together in under 20 minutes, this weeknight meal lets green beans cut through ground pork’s meaty flavor.CreditCreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times
Melissa Clark

Green bean season is shorter than my list of ways to prepare them. Before I can cycle through the dozen or so dishes, it’s time to move on to wintry brussels sprouts and cabbage.

This green bean dish, however, is good enough to squeeze into the lineup.

It’s loosely inspired by Sichuan dry-fried long beans, with the emphasis on “loosely.” In the authentic dish, long beans or green beans are shallow fried in hot oil until they blister and singe, then stir-fried with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and preserved Chinese mustard greens (ya cai), which gives them an umami funk. Sometimes minced pork is added, sometimes it’s not.

My dish zeros in on the green beans and pork. It’s a particularly harmonious pair, with the rich, brawny meat adding succulence and flavor to the lean, grassy beans.

To maintain some of the freshness and color of the green beans, I nixed the shallow frying. Instead, I cut the beans into pieces and stir-fry them quickly, along with ginger, garlic and chiles. I also skip the Sichuan peppercorns and preserved mustard greens, adding coriander seeds and fresh cilantro for complexity, and a big splash of rice-wine vinegar for vibrancy.

Red chiles can be seeded or not here, depending on preference.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times
A wok works well here, as does a 12-inch skillet.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The whole thing comes together quickly, in under 20 minutes, making it particularly weeknight friendly. The most time-consuming part comes from browning the pork. But don’t stint on this. The crisp nuggets are my favorite part — crunchy and salty, almost like meaty popcorn. Also, all that brown matter stuck to the bottom of your pan is caramelized goodness, imbuing the sauce with layers of flavor.

Ground turkey can stand in for the pork, or make this dish without meat, substituting in finely chopped shiitake mushrooms for a similar depth. Just make sure to stir-fry them, until they’re good and brown and crisp, adding a little extra oil if needed.

When I last made this dish, I served it with sliced fresh tomatoes, which has nothing to do with Sichuan cuisine and everything to do with seasonality: Along with the green beans, I had picked up one of the last good tomatoes at the farmers’ market, and liked the way the flavors mingled on the plate. But if you don’t have a ripe tomato, the green beans are just as good by themselves. Gingery, garlicky and porky, they easily hold their own.

Recipe: Stir-Fried Green Beans With Pork and Chiles

More related columns and recipes from Melissa Clark

Melissa Clark has been a columnist for the Food section since 2007. She reports on food trends, creates recipes and appears in cooking videos linked to her column, A Good Appetite. She has also written dozens of cookbooks. @MelissaClark Facebook

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