Crunchy Szechuan Green Beans

Szechuan Green Beans :: Inquiring Chef

A confession.  What I eat when I’m alone can rarely be defined as “a meal”.  I think others of you are with me in this.

I lived alone for years and (oddly) during that time I ate a “real” dinner most every night.  Relatively well-rounded, and always served on a plate, I never understood what people were talking about when they discussed the strange habits of people who eat alone.

And then I got married, and it all changed.  When Frank and I are together for dinner, which is most all the time, we eat, well…you already know what we eat.  We eat what you see on the pages of this blog.  Lately, we often eat some variation on this.

But when Frank leaves town, I’m all over the place.  Some of it is the reality of wanting to test recipes so that I can write about them.  Nights when I’m home alone are good for trying new things that may or may not work and to play around in the kitchen.  (Particularly when the internet is down and I have no idea how to fix it.  Frank left on Sunday night and first thing Monday I woke up to no internet.  Hrmph.)

What you see here is the most stand-up “meal”  I ate while Frank was out of town this week.  One entire pound of green beans.  I had such a strong craving for these very specific Szechuan-inspired green beans that I stopped at the grocery store on my way home just to buy a bunch of beans.  These green beans, I assure you, are not like any others you may have had.  They are crunchy, and spicy, and a tiny bit sweet, and the fact that they are chopped into small pieces makes them perfect to scoop up and eat with rice.

Szechuan Green Beans 2 :: Inquiring Chef

Perhaps a mound of chopped green beans are a passable dinner, but what if I told you that I also cooked and ate these green beans not one, but two mornings this week for breakfast, while photographing them in early morning light?

What about you?  What do you eat when you’re alone?

Anyone else eat strange things for breakfast in the name of blogging?

Crunchy Szechuan Green Beans
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Inspired by many plates of a similar dish I had in Beijing, these spicy, sweet, crunchy green beans hardly resemble any other green beans I've tried. These are fantastic served simply over rice or as a side dish to other Asian-inspired dishes.
Recipe type: Side Dish, Vegetable
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 4
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, minced (should equal about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this will be spicy - reduce, if you prefer less spice)
  • 1 Tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces and rubbed dry with a towel
  1. Whisk together the first seven ingredients (through crushed red pepper) in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat. Just when the sunflower oil begins to shimmer, add the green beans and sauté, stirring constantly, until they begin to blacken in small spots, about 3 minutes. (Note: Be careful when adding the green beans to the pan, as they should sizzle and pop a bit if the oil is hot enough. This process should go very quickly, with the green beans retaining a bright green color, even though they will start to blacken a bit in spots.)
  3. Add the sauce to the pan, stirring to coat the green beans. Cook just until the sauce reduces slightly, about 2 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately, on their own, or over rice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ¾ cup (230g) Calories: 131 Total Fat: 6g Saturated fat: 1g Carbohydrates: 18g Sugar: 4g Fiber: 4g Protein: 3g Cholesterol: 0mg



  1. Corey @ Learning Patience says

    Those look yummy! Hey, I have had veggie soup 3 days in a row for bfast!!!
    I eat what I crave, simple as that!

    xoxo from Trinidad

    • says

      Smart – I think that’s the way to go. I’ve totally seen people recommend having veggie soup for breakfast – it’s sort of a savory, deconstructed smoothie!

  2. says

    Green beans for breakfast? Yeah, I’d totally do that. Then again, I often used to reheat leftover Chinese takeout for breakfast back when I was a singleton with weird eating habits. (Slice of chocolate cake and a side of green salad for lunch? Yes! Box of crackers for dinner? Sure! It’s a wonder I didn’t die of some obscure nutrient deficiency, I tell ya.)
    These actually look very much like my favourite dish at a local Chinese takeout joint – I love them this way, all blistered and crunchy and spicy. Can’t wait to try out this recipe!
    Isabelle @ Crumb recently posted..Rice, Rice Baby: Mushroom and Pea Risotto (and a Review of the Breville Risotto Plus)My Profile

    • says

      Easy there Neuf – you’re the only one around here with that particular brand of cravings. ;) I hadn’t thought to make them with that salmon, but I’m so doing that this week – awesome idea.

  3. says

    Totally. When I’m home alone my eating regresses into crackers for most meals. It may be related to the fact that when I’m home alone I try to watch as many archived episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Girls as I possibly can. And while I’m always picking up after Paul when he’s home, when I’m home alone the house explodes with my stuff and massive kitchen mess (recipe testing, yes).

    These beans look great. At this time of year the green beans available to me come from very very far away, so it’d be a bit of a splurge. I wonder how they’d turn out with frozen beans? Probably not nearly as crunchy, but every bit as flavourful?
    Katie (The Muffin Myth) recently posted..what’s good around the web!My Profile

    • says

      Oh, Katie – I totally have TV marathons when Frank’s out of town – I save up all the shows that I know he doesn’t like and then devour them when I’m alone! I think you’re right about using frozen beans. They might not have the nice crunch, but I would say it’s still worth trying even with frozen beans.

  4. Barbara says

    Your dad made them and now they are my favorite meal. Love them. I even saw Rachel and Banti gobble them up last night.

    • says

      Anjali – that’s amazing! I have friends whose parents grew up here and they have amazing stories about what it was like. Bangkok is so modern now, but it has changed so much. I love your blog!

  5. says

    1. These look awesome and are SO going on my menu for next week.
    2. I definitely don’t cook when I’m alone. the closest I get is heating up some tomato soup (Hubster’s not a fan) and grilling a cheese quesadilla. I usually throw in a salad too.
    Heather {ModernMealsforTwo} recently posted..SlumpMy Profile

  6. says

    I love szechuan anything. This looks like a great recipe and I love your site!

    I eat similarly when alone. Often just focusing in on one ingredient that I was craving. This was my dinner the other week…just a bowl of super healthy spinach dip along with some not so healthy (but could’ve been worse) pretzel crisps.
    Rachel recently posted..Roasted Chicken and Broccoli with Sumac MarinadeMy Profile

    • says

      Mmmm, spinach dip would be something I would crave too. I am so happy I found your site and that Broccoli with Sumac Marinade – I just got my hands on some sumac and have been looking for ways to use it!

    • says

      So glad you liked them, Heather! Frank was out of town when I tested the recipe, so he’s been asking for them – I think we’ll be having them again this weekend!

  7. Patrick says

    Wow! Just finished these a few minutes ago.. delicious! I was a little hesitant to have a dinner of green beans but it was amazing. Yum yum yum. This will definitely be a staple for me in the future.

    • says

      So glad to hear you liked them, Patrick!!! Over rice they certainly strike me as a great meal – vegetarian and pretty healthy, to boot.

  8. Lelee says

    Hi Jess, my son and I had a lovely outdoor lunch at a Chinese place and I had the beans. I was sure I could make something similar, and perhaps less oily. Thanks for the recipe. I will give it a try! I enjoyed reading your blog. My best from Shirlington VA!

    • says

      Lelee – when I’ve had this dish out it does always seem to have a lot of oil, but it’s so unnecessary – there’s so much flavor in this recipe! I hope this is close to the one you tried. We love this dish. And I am so happy to get your note from Shirlington – I absolutely love Shirlington. My husband and I just discovered the Signature theater right before we moved away from DC and I miss all the unique shows they did there! Thanks so much for reading.


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