When House of Annie posted one of their most eye-catching dishes on Sept 22, I knew I had to conjure that pretty looking plate in my kitchen. I was smitten by the yard long beans! Can you imagine that? It has been many moons ago since I had yard long beans and my nostalgic self got the better of me!
I must admit – though – that cooking up this dish started as a BIG challenge for me. How so?
First, I could not find yard long beans in our local supermarkets, and the ones in the Asian store(s) were either too aged or feeble looking, plus – I’m sorry – the price tags were daylight robbery!
Second, I have two young sons; hence, I had no clue if the bedeviled Thai flavours would appeal to their taste buds
Third, my Mat Salleh husband would not approve of my using THAT diabolical ingredient called ‘belacan‘ (shrimp paste)
* SIGH *
Did I give up?
No way, Jose!
Rules are meant to be broken, anyway 😀
Honestly speaking, I am not very good at following instructions to a tee. That’s why I am (still) exploring the world of baking. I prefer cooking, because I frequently think outside the box, and step outside my comfort zone. This was also one of the reasons why replicating this dish was a cosmic challenge for me.
This recipe can be found here: Stir fried Pork with Long Beans.
I have changed one or two *ahem* things from the recipe of House of Annie, and stayed within the boundaries for as long as possible.
There were no yard long beans, but, hey, french beans are in abundance here in Europe. I found my favourite haricots verts fins, French for “fine green beans”, all the way from Kenya!! They have the most vibrant green colour and crunchier when cooked unlike the flimsier light green to yellowish and thicker version of the french beans. A personal choice. Well, I guess it’s just ME!
People, here’s introducing Kenya’s very own produce, the haricots verts fins: in the packet, out of the packet and washed and the evenly cut batch (3 cm long)
The recipe called for half pound (200 grams) green beans, but the greedy me bought 2 x 400 grams of the green beans. That’s 4 times more green beans than the recipe called for! However, I omitted the pork. But still, I was 400 grams over!
Okay! Okay! I love my green beans, so what?
So, did I double the other ingredients?
The answer is “NO“.
Simply, don’t go crazy with your ingredients but go crazy with your God-given senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. And I would like to add two more: intuition and equilibrium (balance).
I found both the kaffir lime (limau purut) and the kaffir lime leaves in one of my favourite Asian stores in Leuven. The juice of the kaffir lime is rarely used in Thai cooking but the zest or the rind is commonly used, especially in red curry paste. I also understand from a Thai lady who owns a sundry shop in Zaventem that the juice of the kaffir lime is excellent hair rinse to prevent hair from falling out. Hmmm…. I must put that to the test some day 😉
Did you notice the white frosty film around the wrinkled limes? That was because I just got them out of the freezer! When buying your asian produce in bulk, store them in the freezer when you are not using them. Believe you me, they will come in handy! I have now a tray full of frozen asian ‘goodies’ in my stand-alone freezer: coriander roots, chillies, lemon grass, kaffir limes and leaves, pandan leaves, galangal and ginger
Oh by the way, did I cut out that diabolical evil-smelling belacan in the recipe?
Infact I was so happy I found belacan in my larder. It did not come in a block, but, rather, in a teeny weeny plastic bottle. It’s pre-roasted and finely ground belacan powder. What more can I ask for?! 😀
My favourite Asian store ran out of dried shrimps that day, so I ended up buying those in another store. OMG, they’re super midget! I have never seen dried shrimps so petite as those. The lady in the store said I should not even bother to pound or blend those little gems. “Just toss them in the pan“, she said!
I wish I had a pestle and mortar like the one at House of Annie….. Yeah, that’s my wishlist for Santa this Christmas 😉
As you can see, I added a little bit more garlic, shallot, coriander root, a 10 cm (ca 4 inches) long lemon grass, 2 green chillies (as I had no red chillies on hand), the rind of the kaffir lime from one small lime, 1.5 cm peeled galangal, 1 tsp of La Baleine course sea salt, and for the rest, I followed the recipe as is.
Once the ingredients were blended into the texture and sight I wanted it to be, I tossed it in the wok (I used my GreenPan™ instead) with 3 Tbsp of oil – against all odds, I used extra virgin olive oil. I then sautéed the ingredients until lightly brown and fragrant. If you noticed, my ground ingredients were not as brown as the one from House of Annie. That’s because I used green chillies instead of red and I did not use the block belacan 🙂
Then I tossed the green beans in the pan and kept stirring and frying (oooops, forgot to take a picture – sorry!)
At first I thought one tablespoon of the fish sauce was a bit too much, as I did not want the taste of the fish sauce to be too over-powering, especially so with the presence of the dried shrimps and belacan powder in the mix earlier. So, I added in only one teaspoon. After giving my green beans a taste, hmmmm…. one teaspoon was just not enough. From one teaspoon, I levelled up to one tablespoon, and kept the count of the original recipe! To balance out the saltiness from the belacan, dried shrimps, fish sauce and course sea salt, I added about one tablespoon of light brown sugar (I used the Cassonade Graeffe). Finally, I tossed in the chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves while stirring the green beans together.
Oh yes, I did save the water from steeping the dried shrimps earlier and I transferred this in the blender with all the core ground ingredients’ residue. I then spooned a little of this infused (steeped) water into the frying pan (only) when the green beans started to dry out. That helped in the steaming process and the beans cooked faster. I prefer my green beans al dente, meaning, without you realising it, the stir-fried green beans were ready to be plated up – cooked enough to be firm, but not soft.
Et voilà !
If you are wondering why there was not much on the plate – remember, I cooked 800 grams – think again, that decent amount was for me, I and myself 😛 It was so yummy, that my two sons and my other half tagged along, and guess what, we finished up all 800 grams of the stir-fried haricots verts fins in one serving!
Checklist of the ingredients I used (adapted from House of Annie) –
- 800 g haricots verts fins (fine French beans – I used the Kenyan produce)
- 10 cm long lemon grass
- 2 green chillies (the amount and colour of chillies really depends on you)
- 3 Tbsp cooking oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- 4 shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 4 coriander roots
- 1.5 cm peeled galangal
- Rind or zest of a small kaffir lime
- 5 black peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp dried shrimps (steeped in some water)
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt (I used La Baleine)
- 1 tsp pre-roasted belacan powder (or the real McCoy – block belacan)
- 1 Tbsp light brown sugar (I used the Cassonade Graeffe from the sugar town, Tienen, in Belgium)
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce, or more, depending on your taste
- Shredded (chiffonade) kaffir lime leaves (I used 3 small- to medium-sized leaves)
- And of course, some water 🙂
For Malaysians who are used to eating and/or cooking kacang panjang tumis belacan, it is worth noting that this one is worlds apart. The freshness of the flavours from the zest of the kaffir lime and leaves, lemon grass, coriander roots and galangal made a whole lot of difference.
Am I going to cook this again?
Nate and Annie, thank YOU for giving me this challenge, and for making me sway from my usual (and boring) French beans and eggs, French beans with dried shrimps, French beans with anchovies, French beans with garlic and butter…..ZZZZZZzzzzzz!
And by the way, readers, I hope this is a wake-up call and it’s over to you now to try this recipe out.