What we call “bean sprouts” come from the mung beans, which are grown in almost every part of China. They are a popular delicacy - crunchy, subtly favoured, and nutritious - as well as inexpensive. I rarely saw them in the many markets I visited because they require proper refrigeration which is uncommon in China. Fragile, they must be eaten very soon after they sprout or they will lose their fresh, lovely taste. Some of the best I sampled, as in this recipe, were elegantly served at the Bagua Lou restaurant in Hangzhou whose recipe is below. The management is dedicated to reviving and recreating dishes from the Southern Song Dynasty (1126-1269), one of the most glorious periods in Chinese history. Their salad is refreshing, delicate, and sophisticated despite its apparent simplicity. It is quite easy to prepare and uncommonly delicious.
Trim the bean sprouts at both ends. Rinse them well in cold water and blanch them for 20 seconds in a large pot of boiling water. Remove the sprouts with a slotted spoon, and immediately plunge them in cold water. Drain thoroughly.
Combine the white rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Toss the bean sprouts in the dressing and serve at once, or cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.