Food & Drink Magazine

Comfort in a Bowl ~ Asian Style Stir Fried Pork & Green Beans

By Weavethousandflavors

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It is with a greater frequency that I find myself yearning for foods that I have eaten throughout my childhood or during my years in Australia and Singapore.

My mother assures me that such is the case for all people as we grow older. Now don't get me wrong,  I am still a good many years away from the geriatric ward but some evenings I cannot but help wish, that I was back at the food court (an embellished term for hawker center)  in Ang Mo Kio or Bishan  (in Singapore) enjoying a large plate of green beans stir-fried with ground pork and other such humble delights.

Since Singapore (and Australia) remain a 24 hour flight & an ouchie-to-our-pocket away, its best I whip up my hearts yearnings in my own kitchen.

A word about dried shrimp or shrimp paste - it is one of those authentic condiments that makes the difference between 'real' v/s 'Sino-American' cooking. It is widely used in Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai cooking (easily found in Asian markets  or online)  

When you first open the  package or the bottle, it smells  of old fish -- which it is. It is called   balachan   in Singapore & Malaysia and the amazing thing about dried shrimp & shrimp paste (which is never eaten raw) is that once it's cooked, it does what anchovy paste does for Italian cooking - the flavors and odors mellow &  give a wonderful,  salty, complex undertone to the dish.

Since I am out of dried shrimp (which fyi, would need to be soaked in water for 20 minutes before using), I am going to use the one thing I always keep at hand in the fridge - shrimp paste with soy bean oil.    
Stir-fried pork and green beans-collage1

Green Beans: Start with freshest, thin and green (obviously) green beans.  Snap off the ends and tear with fingers into 1-1/2" lengths (it is not an exact science but it should be close enough)  Steam green beans till they are a crisp tender ( no more than 3/4 cooked).

Good to know: Traditionally, these green beans would be deep fried in hot oil till they have softened and turned a bright green. However, I have found that steaming the green beans works just as well and is a healthier, albeit still delicious option

Cook's Note - I use one of those microwavable vegetable steam bags on the market and steamed the beans for about 5 minutes (I love  the ease of preparation).  If you have am issue with using these, you can use the traditional route and cook them in boiling water on the stove top or in the microwave (in a microwave safe bowl with lid). The important thing is to watch them closely so they are cooked crispy tender.

Ginger & Garlic : Scrape the skin off the ginger root with a knife and thinly slice half the knob and finely chop the other half.

For the garlic, separate cloves from a bulb. finely chop half the cloves and finely slice the other half.

Chili : Cut the top off the red chilly and discard. Cut into 1/4" circles and set aside. 

Marinate the meat: In a bowl, marinate the ground pork with soy sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, chopped ginger and garlic (reserve the sliced ginger and garlic for the stir-fry)

Green onions: Wash and slice the green onions diagonally.

Red bell pepper: Quarter a red pepper and slice into thin strips.

Sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, sriracha or hot chilly paste & water. Stir till well mixed. Set aside.

Complete all preparations before heading for the flame.

Stir-fried pork and green beans-collage2

  •  Heat heavy bottomed saute pan or wok on high flame.
  • Pour vegetable oil and once it is fuming, add the sliced  garlic-ginger-chilly combo.
  • Stir for a minute and immediately add the shrimp paste, stirring vigorously for a minute. (It will let out this very strong fishy aroma)
  • Add the ground meat, green onions and the red pepper. Continue to saute on high heat till the meat changes color & lightly browns about 5 minutes. Add the green beans and saute till the green beans are almost cooked.
  • Cook's Note - You still want them crunchy tender but soft enough to eat - it should not taste like raw green beans at all. This may take approx 10-15 minutes. Stir throughout and some of the green beans will show bruising which is what you want. 
  • Give the sauce in the bowl a good stir to loosen the congealed cornstarch. Add the sauce to the green beans & stir vigorously on high heat for approx 5 minutes.
  • At this point the sauce should be the thickness of heavy cream, should stick to the beans and the green beans should be perfectly cooked - crisp, tender & not wilted.
  • Taste & adjust seasonings. Serve immediately on a bed of steamed rice.

The meal is simple, delicious & unpretentious. Some days, it isn't about the courses or the exquisite plating - it's just about sitting on the couch with your feet up, watching a favorite show & enjoying a bowl of comfort!

 

Recipe for

Stir-fried Pork & Green Beans

Serves 4

Shopping list

1-1/2 lb green beans

6 oz ground pork

1/2 red pepper

4 stalks green onions

1 'Thai' fresh red chilly

3 cloves garlic

1/2 " fresh ginger root

2 tbs dried shrimp (soaked in water)

OR

1 tbs shrimp paste in soy bean oil

Marinade for meat -

1/4 tsp sugar 

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbs soy sauce

3 cloves garlic

1/2 " fresh ginger root

 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Sauce -

2 tbs oyster sauce

1 tbs dark soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1  tsp cornstarch

2/3 cup chicken stock or water

1/2 tsp  sriracha or hot chilli sauce 

3 tbs vegetable oil 

Preparation -

Green beans - Steam green beans till they are a crisp tender ( no more than 3/4 cooked) using a steam bag or in the microwave or on stove top in boiling water.
Ginger - Scrape the skin off the ginger root with a knife and thinly slice half the knob and finely chop the other half.
Garlic -  separate cloves from a bulb. finely chop half the cloves and finely slice the other half.
'Thai' red chilly - Cut the top off the red chilly and discard. Cut into 1/4" circles and set aside. 
Green Onions - Wash and slice the green onions diagonally.
Red Pepper - Quarter a red pepper and slice into thin strips.
Cooking method-
Pour the oil into a heavy bottomed pan or wok.
Heat the oil till fuming. Add the chopped garlic, ginger and chilly.
Stir for a minute and immediately add the shrimp paste or drained dried shrimp, stirring vigorously for a minute.
Add the ground meat, green onions and the red pepper. Continue to saute on high heat till the meat changes color & lightly browns about 5 minutes.
Add the green beans and saute till the green beans are almost cooked. This may take approx 10-15 minutes. Some of the green beans will show bruising.
Add the sauce to the green beans & stir vigorously on high heat for approx 5 minutes.
At this point the sauce should be the thickness of heavy cream, should stick to the beans and the green beans should be perfectly cooked - crisp, tender & not wilted.
Taste & adjust seasonings.
 Serve immediately with steamed rice.
Enjoy!

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