Sichuan Green Beans with Crispy Minced Pork
We ate this at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Harbour a few years ago. It was the wish of a lifetime for me to visit Hong Kong and I loved every minute of it. I dragged my poor jetlagged husband into all the food experiences I could find – eating in back street canteens, Michelin-starred cafes, and this iconic floating restaurant. We ordered some familiar dishes and then asked for a recommendation from the waiter, who came back with this – charred green beans with a scattering of spicy pork mince. It was wonderful; it’s a Hong Kong classic, available in many forms and as street food as well as in high end restaurants. It’s typical Chinese – well balanced between meat and vegetables, making a little meat go a long way, and adding flavour with sparkles of taste from carefully chosen spices.
If you possibly can, for really good Chinese food at home, do invest in a few genuine Chinese ingredients. I’m lucky to have some excellent Chinese groceries in Manchester’s Chinatown not far away, but you can also buy specialist ingredients on the internet. For this dish, you do need Sichuan pepper – which looks like red peppercorns but is in fact quite a different spice and not related to pepper. It has a unique taste, almost like a floral explosion on your tongue and overused, it can make your mouth go numb! Keep the use of it sparing, until you know how much you like it, but don’t leave it out. The other less common ingredient that most classic recipes for this dish use is Pickled Mustard Greens – which is a bit like a Chinese version of kimchi. I did get some, but I really think you could substitute kimchi, or even fresh cabbage chopped up and cooked in salted water, as it’s the chopped vegetable texture and salty-fermented taste you mainly get from it. Many recipes leave it out. I learned a lot about this dish from searching the internet, and I think my version is closest to Maggie’s, from OmnivoresCookBook.com – thanks Maggie!
I cooked it with egg fried rice and another Chinese dish with a little more sauce (beef with black bean sauce) and it was perfect for my family – we scraped the dishes clean.
Serves 4 Timings – 30 minutes
In a bowl, marinate the pork mince with the Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, garlic and ginger – put them all in together, mix well and leave to the side as you cook the beans.
In a large frying pan, cook the beans with a little oil over a medium heat until they are looking a bit charred and blistered – they will lose their firmness and volume. This takes about 15 minutes, keep moving them about.
Take the beans out of the pan and keep them aside.
Dry fry the Sichuan pepper for about 1 minute, to warm it up and release the fragrance. Crush it in a mortar if the pieces are big and put it back in the pan.
At this time, if you are accompanying with egg fried rice, start to fry your rice.
Add the pork mince to the pan and fry it, breaking up the pieces with your spatula. This takes about 10 minutes, the pork releases fat to fry itself and will end up quite browned and crispy. You will smell the ginger, garlic and Sichuan pepper in a delicious combination.
Add the pickled vegetable, stir well and add the beans back in again. Stir again and mix. Taste; add a splash of soy sauce, a little sugar or a little water – this should not be totally dry although it is not a dish with a lot of sauce.
Serve with your egg fried rice and let the Sichuan Pepper dance a tango on your tastebuds….
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.