Long Beans at Their Best

A few days ago I received a bagful of freshly picked long beans (豇豆) from a friend’s rooftop garden. They were bi-color, crisp and just absolutely gorgeous. Legumes are at their peak during late summer, and I was once again reminded of how we’ve lost the custom of eating locally grown food in season.

It’s not news that eating locally is currently a rage among the environmentally conscious foodies. There are of course many compelling reasons for doing so, and there is no lack of Web sites dispensing advice to people on how to eat locally. One such site that I enjoy is a group blog called Eat Local Challenge. Contributors to the site offer suggestions and share experiences for eating locally. Many articles on the site discuss difficulties in making choices on when and what to buy locally. It just shows how hard it is for consumers to make this switch. Given our modern hectic life and closely watched budget, we often opt for convenience and the low cost resulted from the global economy in spite of the environmental impact. I am often guilty of it.

Long distance food transportation is often cited as the culprit for contributing to global carbon emissions, but it is only part of the equation. Scientists also suggested that certain production practices increase carbon footprints as described in a New York Times article this spring. For example growing hothouse produce in the winter requires much more energy than transporting them from areas with opposite growing season. Refrigeration storage for certain products, such as apple, to be sold out of season also requires unnecessary energy. Therefore simply choosing local products is not sufficient to reduce carbon emissions. One must consider the entire production and delivery system.

Eating products out of season has become common because we, the consumers, demand it and marketers fulfill it. Consumers are now so accustomed to ready availability of out of season products that retailers find it difficult to compete without offering them. This cycle can only be broken if consumers return to seasonal food consumption pattern. This I think is what we need to practice if we were to effect any significant change to the environmental damage.

As I walked home with the beans in my hand, I felt I made a step, however small, in my effort to help break the cycle. My friend has grown two varieties of long beans: a regular green type and a less common purple one. They are great when combined in a dish as they create a beautiful color combination.

  • Stir-Fried Long Beans with Chicken (豇豆炒雞絲)

    • Preparation time: 15 minutes
    • Rapid cooking time: 15 minutes
    • 2 cups (12 oz.) long beans (豇豆) cut into 2-inch length
    • 1/2 lb. chicken breast
    • 2 tablespoons dried shrimps (蝦米) rehydrated in 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 2 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒)
    • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • Chicken Marinade
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • Cut the chicken breast into long 1/4 inch thick strands. Marinade the chicken with the salt, white pepper, cornstarch and oil for about 15 minutes. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok on high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry for about three minutes. The chicken should be cooked on the outside but not cooked through. Scoop the chicken into a bowl and set aside. Be sure to leave about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok.
    • Add the long beans along with the wine, water and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cover the wok. Let the vegetable steam for about five minutes then uncover and let the liquid evaporate. When the vegetable is dry add the garlic and rehydrated dried shrimp to the wok and continue to stir-fry for another minute. Then return the chicken to the wok and continue to stir-fry for another minute. Plate and serve.

12 thoughts on “Long Beans at Their Best”

  1. Ana

    This recipe was delicious! I’m Cantonese, so I made a couple of substitutions and changes. I used dark meat instead of white meat, so I didn’t use any cornstarch. I also added the garlic to the oil first before adding the long bean. The purple long bean you have is beautiful! I got my long bean from my parent’s garden, but I’ll suggest them to grow the purple kind next year.

  2. Fannie

    How funny…I typed in “best way to prepare long beans chinese” and your site popped up first.

    Lo and behold, the first picture is exactly what I purchased at the local farmer’s market today! 🙂

    What a lovely site you had, and I’m definitely bookmarking it for future reference!

  3. Kian

    Fannie, Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’m glad you find this post useful. Yes, Chinese long beans are becoming more popular than ever. They are very versatile and can be prepared in many different ways.

  4. Adriane

    I am growing long beans in my garden for the first time this year, having gotten seeds from a neighbor who is Thai. I planted too much! We have been swamped with long beans. Then along came a rainy spell and I was unable to get out in the garden for 3 days. Along with zucchini that could be used to club a person to death, I picked an armload of long beans that were so mature that I shelled them and cooked them. They were actually delicious that way as well.

  5. carol

    Your article inspired me to try the long beans.. I stir fried some in black bean sauce with crab and it was soooo good!! I have always seen these at the asian market and never knew what they were until now. Thank you!

  6. donna m.

    Thanks for sharing a great recipe! I always thought long beans were tough and needed lots of cooking time. This was a tasty recipe and will be used often!

  7. Dan F.

    I recently picked some of these up on Canal street a few weeks ago and was amazed. I hadn’t yet discovered this blog at the time, so I just dry fried them Schezuan style… I’ll have to try this next time!

    You know, I think me and this blog are going to be a great match (I live in Brooklyn, love Chinese food) 😉

  8. segelkatt

    I was given some seeds last fall, planted them this spring, they took forever to grow. Now it is October and they are producing like crazy, every two days I have more than I can eat and now my freezer is full. But these beans are TOUGH like stems, very fibrous, I hate to give things away that I find practically too tough to eat. I have tried stir fry, boiling in water, adding to stew, all with the same result. These beans are only 8 to 12 inches long and skinnier than a pencil so what am I doing wrong? Wish I could add a pic so you can see how small they are. They look so good and just are not good to eat.

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