Green beans are a humble ingredient, but when prepared well, they can pop off the plate with a luminous green hue that sings with a tender, crunchy texture in each bite. These Chinese Garlic Green Beans hit all the right notes with a chorus of textures and flavors thanks to a few traditional Chinese techniques. Oil blanching locks in the texture and color of the green beans, while stir-frying transforms garlic and Sichuan chili paste into an umami-packed sauce that blankets each strand of string bean with flavor. The best part of this vegan Chinese side dish is that it comes together from just three ingredients!
Why This Recipe Works?
- Oil blanching these Chinese green beans before stir-frying cooks them through in seconds while preserving their vibrant green color and tender crunch.
- Roughly chopping the garlic allows the smaller pieces to caramelize and get crispy while the bigger pieces become sweet and creamy.
- Doubanjiang is a Sichuan chili paste that includes fermented broad beans (fava beans). This makes it rich in umami, allowing you to season this garlic green bean stir fry with just one condiment.
Ingredients for Garlic Green Beans
- Green Beans - Traditionally, this dish is made using Chinese Long Beans, but they can be a little difficult to find, so green beans make for a great substitute with the right balance of tenderness and crunch. I've also made this stir-fry with Romano Beans (a.k.a. flat beans), and they work just as well.
- Garlic - We can't call this dish Garlic Green Beans without garlic, and I like to make sure this lives up to its name by adding plenty of this pungent allium. The trick here is to smash the garlic first with a blunt object. This makes peeling easy, and crushing the cloves lets you roughly chop them. The different sizes of garlic offer varying textures and levels of caramelization.
- Doubanjiang - This fermented Sichuan chili bean paste is an umami powerhouse, giving the dish depth and richness without using many ingredients. If you can't find Doubanjiang, a blend of miso and an Asian chili paste like sambal oelek will work.
How to Make Chinese Garlic Green Beans
The first thing you want to do is wash and thoroughly dry the green beans before you cut them. This prevents water from entering the inside of the pods, which can make them pop when we flash fry them. Be sure to use as many paper towels as needed to get the surface of the green beans dry. Now, you can line the string beans up and trim off the tops.
If you've ever wondered how Chinese restaurants are able to get vegetables like green beans or eggplant tender while retaining their vibrant hue, it's a technique called oil blanching (or flash frying). The high temperature of the oil almost instantly cooks the vegetables while preserving the pigments (and nutrients) that give them their color.
To do this, you want to fill a pan with enough oil to submerge the vegetables you're cooking. For green beans, ½-inch should be plenty. Heat the oil to 360°F (180°C). This high temperature cooks the green beans rapidly while ensuring you have a steady stream of steam escaping from the vegetables, which prevents them from absorbing the oil. Flash fry your green beans in small batches for about forty seconds or until they're vibrant green and the skins just start to wrinkle. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined rack to drain.
Once all of the green beans have been oil-blanched, pat them with paper towels to remove any excess oil. Now drain all but a tablespoon of oil from the frying pan— the oil should still be pretty clean, so you can save the rest to shallow fry something else.
Now, you want to stir-fry the chopped garlic until it starts to brown around the edges. Return the beans to the pan along with the doubanjiang and stir fry your Chinese garlic green beans until the garlic and chili paste form a sauce that coats each strand.
Serve it With
The rich flavors, satisfying textures, and vibrant colors of these spicy Garlic Green Beans make them a delightful vegan-friendly main dish or a versatile side dish for a homemade Chinese feast. If you want to stick with a spicy Sichuan theme, these pair beautifully with my Wontons with Chili Oil, Bang Bang Chicken, and Mapo Tofu. To contrast the spicy and savory beans, try serving these with Sweet and Sour Pork, Chili Shrimp, or my Orange Chicken. If you want to stick to a vegan and vegetarian friendly menu, I've got recipes for Kung Pao Tofu and Vegetarian Mapo Tofu.
- 250 grams green beans
- vegetable oil for oil blanching
- 30 grams garlic (roughly chopped)
- 2 tablespoons doubanjiang
- Wash and then thoroughly dry 250 grams green beans with paper towels. Trim the stem ends off.
- Heat about ½-inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan to 360° F (180°C).
- Oil blanch the green beans in batches until they are vibrant green and the skins start wrinkling (about 40 seconds).
- Drain the string beans on a cooling rack lined with a few layers of paper towels. Repeat until you've flash fried all of the beans.
- Use additional paper towels to press out as much oil from the green beans as possible.
- Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan (save it for something else) and return the pan to the stove.
- Stir-fry 30 grams garlic until it just starts to brown around the edges.
- Return the green beans to the pan, along with 2 tablespoons doubanjiang, and stir fry everything together until the string beans are evenly coated with the chili garlic sauce. Serve immediately.