Slice the pencil thin long bean into 1 to 2 inch bite-sized pieces and stir fry with a bit of ginger then serve as a side dish with pork or fish.
Add sliced long beans to soups or more simply add them blanched or raw to a salad just as you would the French haricots verts.
Long beans have a chewy, crunchy texture–more so than snap beans–and a flavor reminiscent of the dry navy bean or asparagus. Asparagus! Yes, that is where this cousin of the black-eyed pea gets one of it many other common names: the asparagus bean.
Asparagus bean, yard long bean (it actually can grow to nearly a yard long, though it will be tastier at half that length), Chinese pea and China pea (where this bean is a favorite), snake bean (looks like), dau gok, and in the Caribbean bodi or boonchi are other common names for this legume.
Besides stir-fry, soups and salads, the long bean is a good choice for stewing, braising (to remain chewy and firm), sautéing, shallow frying, and deep frying. With cooking, the long bean’s bean flavor intensifies.
Thin and young long beans have the most delicate flavor. Older, fatter beans are more intense and sweet, and dried long beans can be used in the kitchen just like any other dried bean or legume.
Long beans do not contain as much moisture as bush or pole beans (the long bean is not a close relative of the common bean), that’s what makes them more flexible and snake like and, of course, drier to taste. The next time you order Szechwan-style Chinese food look for the long beans. The Szechwan dish called dry-fried beans is the long bean deep-fried, drained, and then stir-fried with spicy seasoning. That dish takes about 5 minutes to cook.
The long bean grows on a climbing plant that reaches 6 to 13 feet long. The pods can be straight or hooked and contain 15 to 20 elongated kidney-shaped seeds usually black or brown between and each about ½ to ¾ inches long. The long bean is ready for harvest at 8 to 10 inches long but can be picked much longer, at 1½ to 3 feet long.
Season. Long beans are a warm-season plant and are harvested from mid to late summer. The long bean will be damaged by frost.
Choose. Select small, thin, firm pods in which the beans have not matured. Pods can range from dark green to pale-green. Pale green beans will be sweeter and meatier when cooked though more fibrous and less delicate. Dark green beans are best suited for braising as they are more firm. Avoid mature beans that can turn yellow or whitish colored.
Store. Long beans will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, best in a closed plastic bag. Mature long beans can be harvested for their seeds which can be dried and stored like other dry beans.
Prepare. Trim away the stem end and slice into desired lengths on the diagonal or straight across. Long beans are best trimmed before stir frying.
Cook. Long beans can be stir-fried, stewed, braised, sautéed, shallow fried, and deep fried. With cooking, the long bean’s bean flavor intensifies.
- Stir fry until just tender crunchy.
- Steam or for 3-7 minutes until just tender.
- Braise for 20 minutes with other vegetables and meats, best in a garlicky or oniony braising liquid.
Serve. Long beans can be served raw in salads or added to soups or stir-fried dishes.
Flavor partners. Long beans have a flavor affinity for pork, ginger, nuts, fermented black beans, garlic, strong herbs, soy and fish sauce, chili peppers, sausages, oil and vinegar.
Nutrition. Long beans are low in calories, about 45 calories per cup, and rich in vitamin A and also contain vitamin C and potassium.
Long bean facts and trivia. It was once believed the long bean was native to China and southern Asia, but it is now known that the long bean originated in tropical and sub-tropical Africa before traveling east to India, Indonesia and China and then on to the Pacific Islands. From Africa, the long bean traveled west to the Caribbean and North America. Today the long bean is commonly grown in California and Hawaii.The botanical name for the yard-long bean is Vigna unguiculata, subsp. sesquipedalis. (Sesquipedalis means foot and a half long in Latin.)