For anyone who is fond of the Western style green beans, encountering the Chinese long bean may seem like discovering a super bean. Flavorful and easy to prepare, they can be a great way to get away from the same old green vegetables and add some variety to everyday meals.
One of the main factors that distinguish the Chinese long bean from North American string beans is the length. Capable of growing to lengths of 3 feet (0.9 m), most people recommend harvesting and preparing the beans when they are no longer than 20 inches (0.5 m). While it is true that the longer Asian beans are somewhat tougher, they do very well if the idea is to use them in some sort of a casserole. Even when longer and tougher, these beans tend to be softer in texture than American varieties of green beans, but every bit as filling.
The color of the Chinese long bean varies somewhat, from a pale green to a very deep almost forest green. As far as the taste, most types have a very similar flavor to Western green beans, and can be used in many of the same ways. One popular use for them is as an ingredient in a vegetable stir-fry. Typically, the bean will be cut into sections of 3 to 5 inches (7.62 to 12.7 cm) in length, and paired with slivers of carrots, and eggplant.
Blanching is a great way to prepare the Chinese long bean, as the process helps to bring out their flavor. One mode of preparation involves blanching the bean segments, then frying them lightly with a small amount of garlic infused olive oil. Because they absorb flavors readily, frying the beans on a lower heat for 15 minutes or so will allow the flavors of the oil to mingle with the natural taste of the bean itself, creating a tasty side dish.
The Chinese long bean also works very well in soups as well. The dark green color of some of the beans will be an attractive addition to vegetable soup using a tomato base, especially when combined with the bright orange of carrots and the vibrant yellow of whole kernel corn. One thing to keep in mind is that the beans tend to become soft much quicker than North American green beans, so it is a good idea to not add them until the last half-hour that the soup is allowed to simmer.
With a pleasing taste and deep color, Chinese long beans are a great way to dress up some favorite recipes that call for green beans. As a compliment to all sorts of meats and vegetables, they will easily find a place at any table.