Chinese who live in the countryside understandably enjoy a greater variety of fresh produce than those living in the city, with food from their back-yards or a few yards away in nearby fields. With no or little refrigeration, produce is eaten in season, the surplus being dried or pickled or salted. These preserving techniques have been perfected over the course of thousands of years, retaining the nutritional qualities of the foods and enhancing their flavours.
At one delightful feast I had at the home of the Huangs in Sichuan, my hostess retrieved from the ground an earthen jar she had filled with chillies to pickle the year before. She pounded the chillies into a paste, adding that to chopped garlic and then to stir-fried fresh seasonal vegetables, in this case, green beans. I successfully repeated the recipe, using fresh mild red chilles and adding a touch of vinegar. This is an appetising way to enjoy green beans when they are in season. They make a lovely side dish, authentically Sichuan in every way.
String the green beans and snap them in half. Split open the red or green chillies and chop them coarsely.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until hot. Add the oil, garlic, and salt and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Put in the chillies and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Then add the green beans, rice wine or sherry, vinegar, sugar, and water and continue to stir-fry until tender, about 5 minutes, adding more water if necessary. When the green beans are cooked, add the peppercorns, mix well, and serve at once.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.