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Sichuan pickled long bean: with pork

Pickled-string-bean-chengdu-23Minced Pork w/ Sichuan Pickled String Beans at Chengdu 23

One of our favorite dishes at Chengdu 23 in Wayne, and there are many favorites, is the Minced Pork w/ Sichuan Pickled String Beans.

This dish is all sorts of wacky, with aggressive saltly and sour flavors, tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, crunchy long beans, spicy dried hot chile, all seasoned with pork for crying out loud.

I had always assumed that this was a dish that could only be created in the kitchen of a Sichuan restaurant, and never gave much thought to cooking it at home. But then my life changed forever while thumbing through the incredible Sichuan cookbook Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop, when I saw a recipe for a dish that looked very familiar.

This is a stupid easy dish to make, although you want to get started a few days ago, because the pickling of the beans takes some time.

The pickling solution includes salt, Sichuan peppercorn, dried red chile, ginger, star anise, brown sugar, a bit of vodka, and cinnamon. Into a jar with the beans and into the fridge for a few days. I've done this with a quick (10 hour) brine, and with a 3 day brine, and the results are markedly better after 3 days. Plan ahead.

Cooking the dish is about as easy, starting with ground pork with a bit of salt and soy sauce, browned until crisp.

Remove the pork and throw in some Sichuan peppercorns and red chiles, saute for a moment, add the beans and the pork and cook for a minute or two. That's it. Done. Immensely satisfying for such little effort.

If you want specific amounts, just google the recipe. Plenty of bloggers have stolen been "inspired" by the recipe and published their version.

Chinese cooking can be so simple and quick. The dishes I've been making generally call for some simple prep in the form of chopping of vegetables and aromatics and the mixing of some simple sauces. After that, the cooking process takes minutes. Just throw the stuff in a pan or wok in the correct order, and you're eating very well in minutes.

If you start cooking, or at least eating, this type of Chinese food, I won't have to spend so much time explaining that "Chinese" food, as Americans know it, has nothing to do with the cuisines of China. Sweet & Sour Chicken and Peppers w/ beef from your local Chinese take-out place are just nonsense fast food, suitable for kids. Try stuff like this and surprise yourself.

Here are a few places in New Jersey to get Chinese long beans (although regular green beans will work OK in this dish) and other real food:

H-Mart: Various locations
Old Hook Farm (when they are in season): Emerson
Kam Man Foods: Various locations
Top Quality Food Market: Parsippany
Asian Food: Various locations
Terri Lee Thai Grocer: Maywood