Bean Sprouts

Chao Douya

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Mrs. Chiang’s family ate many bean sprouts, mainly because they were cheap and easy to grow. But nobody in Szechwan ever thought of them as being a more “Chinese” vegetable than, say, eggplant. Mrs. Chiang finds it amusing that an Oriental mystique surrounds them in this country. Because of that mystique and because health food addicts have taken them up, fresh bean sprouts are often easier to find in America than other Chinese vegetables. You can get them in health food stores and many grocery stores as well as Chinese markets. And, if you are horticulturally inclined, you can get some dried mung beans and sprout them yourself. You cannot, however, open a can. Canned bean sprouts are horrible; they are flabby and have a strong metallic taste.

    Bean sprouts are at their best in simple stir-fried dishes where their crispness and fresh flavor don’t have to compete with elaborate seasonings or rich sauces. Mrs. Chiang cooks bean sprouts with a light hand, adding only the merest touch of vinegar and soy sauce to cut the blandness. She is equally restrained about the cooking time, and snatches her sprouts away from the flame at that crucial point when they are still crunchy but no longer raw. The result is essence of bean sprout, a crisp, light vegetable dish.

    Method

    Preparation

    1 pound bean sprouts (4 cups, approximately) Rinse the bean sprouts several times quite thoroughly, and try to pick out the dark husks that originally covered the beans before they sprouted. (Mrs. Chiang says that some fastidious Chinese cooks also break off the tiny roots from the rest of the sprout and discard them. She doesn’t because it’s just too much work.)
    3 scallions Clean the scallions, then cut them, both green part and white, into 1-inch lengths.

    Cooking

    ½ cup peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a fairly high flame for 15 seconds, then add the oil. It will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
    (bean sprouts) When the oil is ready, put the bean sprouts in the pan and stir-fry them rather vigorously for 30 seconds, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the sprouts off the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, so each one is exposed to the hot oil.
    (scallions) Add the scallions and continue to stir-fry for another 30 seconds.

    1-¼ teaspoons salt

    1 teaspoon soy sauce

    2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

    Keep stirring while you add the salt and soy sauce, then, after stir-frying for about 45 seconds more, add the vinegar.

    Continue to stir-fry the sprouts for about 1 more minute before serving. The cooking time for the beans sprouts shouldn’t be more than 3 minutes altogether. They will be cooked when they have reduced in bulk and become much softer. (Do not overcook them or they will lose their delightful crunchy texture and become flaccid and uninteresting.)