kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake
A white plate containing a heap of green beans cooked with sliced red chillies and minced pork.  The skins of the beans are wrinkled and blistered, indicating that as much liquid as possible has been cooked out of them in order to concentrate the flavour.

This week's dish is 乾煸四季豆 (gān biān sì jì dòu), which is usually translated as "dry-fried green beans". As I mentioned on Wednesday, 四季豆 (sì jì dòu) are green beans. 乾 (gān) means "dry", in this context — it also appears on menus as 乾炒 (gān chǎo), most notably as 乾炒牛河 (gān chǎo niú hé/dry-fried beef with ho fun noodles). Note that it may appear in its simplified version, which is 干.

Online dictionaries appear to be quite reluctant to give an English meaning for 煸 (biān), but my paper dictionary translates it as "stir-fry before stewing", which seems reasonable, though to me "stewing" implies there's a fair bit of liquid involved, which is not the case here. This translation does, however, incorporate the idea of twice-cooking, which is what distinguishes 乾煸 from 乾炒.

乾煸四季豆 is a Sichuan dish. Green beans are fried once to cook them through, then drained and fried again with flavourings such as garlic, ginger, chillies, and minced pork. As Beijing Haochi points out (scroll down), the initial frying step softens the beans in a way that's completely different from the result that boiling or steaming would produce — and a commenter on that post notes that this technique bears some resemblance to the multiple cookings of chips/French fries, where the initial one or two steps are intended to cook the potato through, and the final step is intended to give flavour to the outside. Like competently-prepared chips, 乾煸四季豆 isn't overly greasy when executed well, despite the double frying.

Red Cook describes the 乾煸 cooking style as "extreme-heat stir-fry", and notes that since the main ingredient is cooked "to the point of dehydration", its flavour is strongly intensified. 乾煸四季豆 is not a dish for those who hate green beans — the flavour of the beans should be apparent even through the chillies and other strong flavourings.

There are a number of variations of this dish. The Rasa Malaysia version actually deep-fries the beans in the first step — this speeds up the cooking and helps ensure that the beans are cooked evenly. The Appetite For China version omits the pork mince entirely, replacing it with dried shrimp. Other recipes use both pork mince and dried shrimp, for extra complexity of flavour. Some recipes include ground Sichuan pepper, others add chilli bean paste. Some include ginger, while others omit it. Finally, mmm-yoso!!! notes that you can use asparagus instead of green beans for yet another variation.

The version I made for dinner last night included dried chillies, garlic, ginger, preserved vegetable (soaked first to remove some of the saltiness), pork mince, soy sauce, rice wine, ground Sichuan pepper, and a splash of home-made chilli oil. I also added some sliced spring onions at the end, since I like them and happened to have some on hand. It was pretty tasty.

Characters mentioned in this post:
Other related posts:
If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2010-07-02 12:45 am (UTC)
bob: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bob
needs more chilli and garlic :)

that maybe a lie.
i think tasting it with more green beans would have been better.

almost as good as the indian ones i did http://community.livejournal.com/snake_soup/170166.html#cutid4

Date: 2010-07-06 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I realise you like Sichuan food a lot! Is it the spiciness that you enjoy?

--
Qiuyan

Date: 2010-07-08 10:46 pm (UTC)
sunflowerinrain: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sunflowerinrain
I've had my evening meal, but on seeing this I feel quite hungry (or perhaps greedy!).

Oh, and happy birthday :)

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