If I had to choose a single dish which best demonstrates my need for a English-Chinese food app in China, I would definitely go with the dish I wanna speak about today – Stir Fry Green Beans.
Before I came to China I didn’t care so much for green beans. Maybe it was the way my mom cooked them, maybe it was just me being narrow minded, but you could count the times I ate green beans on the hand of an Asian person posing for a photo.
When I first came to China on 2005, I studied Chinese in a small private school in the north of Beijing. One of my school mates was an American guy called Greg. Prior to his arrival at Beijing, Greg spent some time in Sichuan. This meant that not only did he speak Chinese better than all of us, but he was also quite familiar with the local cuisine and knew numerous delicious dishes, particularly from Sichuan Province. In the pre-iPhone era, he was our very own human version of FOODragon.
One night a bunch of us were having dinner downtown and as usual Greg was in charge of ordering. One of the dishes he ordered immediately became a big hit among all of us. It was made of deep fried green beans stir fried with minced pork, chili peppers and Sichuan peppers. The deep fried beans were crispy just to the right extent, and in the process of stir frying they seem to have absorbed a flavor which could only be described as heavenly (though now I know a better word for that – umami, the dish was probably loaded with MSG).
After that dinner we couldn’t get enough of that dish but the problem was we could only order it when Greg was around. No matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t bring our minds to remember its name. We kept referring it as Greg’s dish and did our best to describe it to poor waiters in poor Chinese. We felt like neanderthals – “long green things, red spicy, very small meat, you know it”?
The name finally sank in after a couple of months. It is 干煸豆角, pronounced gān bián dòu jiǎo or gan bian for short (only among laowais). Here’s a small gift for you in case you don’t have an iPhone or a Greg on your side to help you order this dish:
Print it and show at your local common restaurant. All restaurants but the very small ones should have it.