When I traveled to the province of Sichuan (Szechuan) with a best friend during the year I spent working in Beijing, I had so many new experiences. Just to recount a few, I ate spicy noodle soup as breakfast for the first time ever, visited one of the most treasured national parks in China- Jiuzhai Valley, lived in a traditional courtyard house. The most memorable ones though, I’d have to say, involve the various food that I tried.
I remember one day for dinner, my friend’s family took us on a secluded mountain ride in their SUV, and I was sitting in the back of the car, wondering what can there possibly be to eat on a dark and secluded mountain away from the city. We eventually pulled up in front of a small shack, and a couple in their fifties humbly dressed came out to greet us with enthusiastic smiles and waves. Turned out, this was a couple who runs a tiny restaurant/ inn on the mountain top for city folks who drive here to spend the weekend, for a quiet countryside escape. Their most appealing factor is that they grow most of the food consumed by guests in a small patch of land behind the inn. What we were there for that evening, however, was their specialty dish: spit roasted chicken.
And of course, the chicken had to come from their own range. For the next ten minutes, I watched how the couple caught a chicken from their backyard and proceeded to kill it. Plucking feathers, skinning, and the whole nine yards. I’ll save you the details, but the important point is, in fifteen minutes, we had a whole chicken roasting nice and slow over an open campfire.
When the chicken was close to being done, the couple brushed on a layer of oil and spices, and oh boy….I’ll leave you to imagine (and salivate) how amazing the smell was. Before long, we all sat around the open pit and with our gloved hands and knifes, started cutting into pieces of chicken and within half an hour, devoured the entire bird.
Arguably one of the best and most unique meals I’ve had.
But today, I want to share with you another dish I had in Szechuan and promptly became obsessed with- spicy blistered green beans. The Szechuan people use a special technique to blister the skin of the green beans under high heat on the wok and then adding Szechuan peppercorn and all kinds of spices to create this mouthwatering addicting dish.
For this healthier version, I cut down on the amount of oil used as well as the spiciness, in the hopes that in pursuit of culinary genius, you won’t develop heart disease or uncontrolled acne. Yes, you’re welcome.
Szechuan Blistered Green Beans
- 1 pound of green beans, cut to 1 inch stalks
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 pinch of Szechuan peppercorn
- 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp chili oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
In a large skillet, heat up oil over high heat for 2 minutes. Add green beans to the skillet and arrange them so that they are mostly flat against the pan.
On medium-high heat, blister the green beans. Cover skillet with lid since oil will splatter. This takes 5-7 minutes. When skin of green beans is wrinkled and somewhat browned, it is done.
Add 2 tbsp of water to the skillet and cover with lid again to make sure green beans is cooked through.
Add garlic, peppercorn, red pepper flakes and chili oil and sautee the green beans for 2 minutes.