abcdefg Posted July 22, 2019 at 12:41 PM Report Share Posted July 22, 2019 at 12:41 PM This delicious flavor combination is popular all over China, especially in the summer months. The two main ingredients, long green beans 四季豆 and eggplant 茄子, are both thought to help the body deal with hot weather. I was reminded of how good it tastes this weekend as a guest at a business lunch in a “home style” 家常菜 restaurant known for its Yunnan take on such well-known dishes. Today I decided to make it at home while the mental image was still fresh in mind. Here's the restaurant version. I didn't think to snap a picture until it was nearly gone. Hence the half-empty plate. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Yunnan food is not quite as fiery hot as that of Sichuan and Hunan, but it is definitely no shrinking violet when it comes to using a bold palette of spices. This dish is a good example of how Yunnan cuisine constructs a distinctive regional flavor. These beans 四季豆 are as long as my forearm. My neighborhood outdoor farmers market has several related varieties, all inexpensive and fresh. I picked a nice-looking bundle, paid 3 Yuan, and then moved on to find some eggplant. At this time of year lots of small eggplant are being harvested, some no longer than my outstretched hand, from wrist to fingertips. I bought 2 that were a little larger than that. Paid 2 Yuan for them. Bought a red bell pepper 红甜椒 for 1.50 and a couple of moderately-large spring onions 大葱 for one more Yuan. Ingredient total at this point was under 8 Yuan. Factor in some garlic and ginger plus bottled sauces, and you are looking at a lavish total investment of around 10 Yuan. Washed 洗净 and cut the vegetables 切段, making the sections of green bean and eggplant approximately the same length. The pieces of eggplant were strips, about the size of a finger 切条状。Finely chop a little garlic and ginger, smash and slice the spring onion, sliver half the red bell pepper, and set out a tablespoon of doubanjiang 豆瓣酱。This is a spicy fermented bean and chili sauce that originated in Pixian County, Sichuan. 郫县, not far from Chengdu 成都。 Not shown is one small rice bowl containing a mixture of my liquid ingredients, prepared so that they can be added quickly without having to measure when the pan is hot and food is cooking fast. (1 tablespoon of soy sauce 酱油, 1 tablespoon of dark aged vinegar 老陈醋, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine 料酒, and 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce 蚝油。) A second small rice bowl contains a half teaspoon of corn starch 玉米淀粉 mixed with about two tablespoons of water, to be added at the end as a binder and thickening agent 勾芡。 Preheat the wok over high flame; when it’s hot, add a couple tablespoons of cooking oil, 2 or 3 depending on the volume of the eggplant. I think rapeseed oil 菜籽油 works best for this since it isn’t overly delicate, stands up well to high heat and adds a little flavor of its own. Add the eggplant, stirring constantly until it becomes tender and starts to take on a golden color. Remove it to a pan and set it aside. If your wok is well seasoned, it won’t need washing at this point. You can just wipe it out with a paper kitchen towel and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Continuing to use high flame, add the cut green beans and stir fry them for two or three minutes, until they become slightly tender and start to look “crinkly” and develop speckling with dark in color. You don’t want them to actually scorch, but a little color is desirable. Below right, you can see the "breath of the wok" (wok hei or 锅气/镬气) as the beans near the end of their cooking time. It's closer to smoke than it is to steam. When you shake the pan, sometimes small tongues of flame jump into it. Adds depth to the flavor. Scoop them out into a pan. Set them aside. Wipe the wok and add a little more oil. (It won’t need much; a teaspoon or two.) Put in the ginger 姜末, followed by the minced garlic 蒜泥, thinly sliced red bell pepper 红甜椒丝 , chopped spring onions 葱花, 4 or 5 dried red chili peppers 干辣椒, and the doubanjiang 豆瓣酱。Stir fry these together until they are well mixed and you can smell the aroma. Add back the beans and the eggplant. Combine them well with the spices. Now add the bowl of wet seasonings, a pinch of salt 食用盐, a pinch of sugar 白砂糖, a pinch of MSG 味精。If it looks too dry, add a splash of boiling hot water (not cold water; you don't want to slow down the cooking process.) Cover and cook on low heat for two minutes. Remove the lid and mix in the corn starch slurry 水淀粉。 After it comes to the boil again, it’s ready to serve. Plate it up! Goes real well with steamed rice and part of a small roast chicken. At the restaurant it was just one component of a big lunch spread at a round table that had a dozen other dishes: chicken, pork, beef and fish. Vegetables that were steamed, boiled and fried. A couple types of soup. We rotated the center of the table slowly and had our fill of a fine assortment of Yunnan specialties. Can’t do all that at home of course, but still wanted to reproduce one small piece of it today and show you how. Here's the recipe all in one place if you would care to give it a try: (Please click "reveal hidden contents.") Spoiler Ingredients: Long green beans 四季豆 -- about 300 grams – stem end removed, cut in pieces 3 or 4 inches long. Slim Asian eggplants 茄子— about the same amount by volume as the beans – cut into finger-sized strips. (Leave the skin on.) Cooking oil with a high smoke point -- recommend rape seed oil for this dish 菜籽油。 Dry seasonings -- Small thumb of garlic, minced. 老姜 Large clove or two of garlic, minced. I prefer the kind that is all one single clove, not segmented into petals. 独蒜 One large spring onion 大葱 – smashed flat with the side of knife 菜刀 and cut fine. Only use the white part. Half a red bell pepper 红甜椒 – Seeded and thinly sliced. Dried red chili peppers 干辣椒 – 4 to 6 depending on how hot you like your food. Doubanjiang – 豆瓣酱 – 1 tablespoon -- a spicy sauce made from fermented beans. Coarse cooking salt 食用盐 – ¼ teaspoon or less (a pinch.) Don’t need much because several of the other ingredients contain salt. Beware of using Chinese table salt. It’s very fine and you can easily over-salt things. Granulated sugar – 白砂糖 -- ¼ teaspoon or less (a pinch.) MSG 味精 or chicken essence 鸡精 – ¼ teaspoon or less (a pinch.) Liquid seasonings – 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce 生抽，aged rice wine vinegar 老陈醋，yellow cooking wine 料酒，and oyster sauce 耗油。Mix these into a small bowl so they are ready to use fast when needed. Corn starch 玉米淀粉 ½ teaspoon, mixed with about 2 tablespoons of cold water – 水淀粉。Used as a binder and thickening agent. 勾芡 Method: Over high flame, quickly stir fry the eggplant in a couple tablespoons of rapeseed oil. Cook it mostly but not completely done. Remove them to a bowl and wipe out the wok. Heat another tablespoon of oil. Continuing to use high flame, stir fry the green beans until they begin to get soft and begin to develop spots of deep golden color. Remove them to a bowl and wipe out the wok. Heat another tablespoon of oil. Stir fry the aromatics (ginger, garlic, dried red peppers, doubanjiang, red bell pepper slices until they are mixed well and beginning to release their aroma. Return the eggplant and green beans to the wok. Stir to mix with the aromatics. Add the wet seasonings plus a tablespoon or two of hot water (if it looks dry.) Cover and cook about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the corn starch solution. 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