Chinese green beans

The key to these magically good green beans is a quick bath in hot oil, which seals in flavor and leaves them bright green and crisp-tender.


  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • Cooking oil for frying (my mom likes corn oil best)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 green onion (scallion)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Snap off ends of green beans. My mom says Chinese cooks take off the point end as well as the stem end, but Americans and Europeans take off the stem end only. Either way works.
  2. Rinse green beans well under cold water. Dry very well. Water left on the beans will splatter in the oil.
  3. Step one: fry beans in hot oil until bright green and a bit wrinkly. If you have a fryer, fry the beans in small batches. If you don’t, use a pan on the stovetop with 1/2 inch to 1 inch of oil. A wok is good to minimize oil usage. If you use a small pan, you will need less oil to get the depth you need, but you will only be able to fry a few beans at a time. A larger pan will use more oil but take less time. Don’t overcrowd the beans – if the oil isn’t quickly bubbling again soon after you add the beans, you’re cooking too many at once. Use chopsticks or tongs to move the beans as they cook – this will help circulate the hot oil.
  4. Take out beans to drain on a paper towel. The paper towel will absorb excess oil before the beans do. Set aside. If you are making this ahead of time, you can refrigerate the beans a day or two ahead and finish them just before serving.
  5. Step two: briefly stir fry beans with flavorings. Slice the green onion (my mom uses the green part cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces, but if you are using the white part you’ll want a thinner slice). Heat a tablespoon of cooking oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add green onions and cook briefly to flavor the oil.
  6. Add green beans. Sprinkle with soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Use tongs to turn green beans to coat. Cook only briefly to incorporate flavorings and warm the beans. Place beans on platter for serving.


  • If you can find them, slim French green beans work well for this dish – they cook faster and are more tender than the large ones.
  • Any vinegar is fine – white, apple cider, rice.
  • For a large meal such as Thanksgiving, it helps to do step one a day or two ahead of time. Step two only takes a minute before serving.
  • To save the cooking oil for re-use, strain the oil through a fine sieve and store in a cool place. Opinions differ on the safety of re-using oil due to possible release of carcinogens during re-heating. The chinese grandma in me wants to save it, but the health nut in me has reservations.
  • To dispose of oil, let cool first. If you have an empty container with a lid from your recycling bin, it’s easiest to pour it, cap it and throw it away. Oil can eat holes in plastic bags, so pouring directly in the trash can make a mess. Aside from inviting plumbing problems, a small amount of oil contaminates a large amount of water, so don’t be tempted to pour it down the sink.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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