Weeknight Cooking

Asian Garlic Green Beans

June 20, 2011

Asian Garlic Green Beans

- Jenny

It is a well-documented fact that I do not like to make sides. Actually, no one has documented that at all beyond me, here on this site, once

Shop the Story

But the fact is sides are, for me, the most detestable part of cooking. They generally require too much chopping and simmering for the buck, sucking away time I’d rather spend simply eating my main course, served up with a side of rice or some quickly steamed or sautéed broccoli.  

But recently, I began a dinner exchange with my neighbor -- they bring us dinner one night a week, and we make their meal on another. I quickly realized that other people expect more than a slab of meat or fish, they expect a little showmanship on the edge of the plate. Still, we’re talking weeknight here. 

Enter Asian Garlic Green Beans by mtlabor. Motivation for making this in rough order of importance: 

1. I had everything on hand save the beans. 

2. mtlabor, in this humble weeknight cook’s opinion, is one of the most reliable recipe writers on this site. Her recipes are easy to follow, conform to real kitchens and work. ‘Nuff said. 

3. If you make this, your kitchen will smell like Chinese take out, and I mean that in a good way. 

I read this recipe over as I trimmed my beans, grumbled at my husband for not picking them over a bit better at Whole Foods, which was charging a king’s ransom for plenty banged up beans you should know, and told anyone within earshot to set the table. 

The only thing that gave me pause was the directive for olive oil. I chose to go with peanut oil instead, which I think is a better partner for soy sauce, and because you’re told to get your pan super hot, and peanut oil tends to be more up for the task of that activity than its olive friend. 

I love that you make a little well in the beans for the spices. It’s just fun. Plus it works. In about 15 minutes you have a very worthy side. Just watch your hand as you sprinkle red pepper flakes. A little distraction will lead to a rather hot mouth. That’s not neighborly. 

Asian Garlic Green Beans by mtlabor

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add generous amount of salt and add green beans. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat for about 2 minutes. You want it to get pretty hot by itself. Add oil and coat the pan. Add the green beans and saute for about 2-4 minutes, or until they start to brown.
  3. Make a well in the center of the skillet and add garlic, ginger powder, and red pepper flakes. Slowly start to incorporate the green beans, until everything is well mixed.
  4. Stir in soy sauce and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve fresh and hot as a great side or snack!

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Jennifer Steinhauer

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lisa
  • mtlabor
  • singing_baker
  • MakeThatMakeThis
  • mcs3000

Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


Lisa February 9, 2014
I made this with our dinner tonight. The amount of garlic gave it a huge kick. I wasn't sure if the kids would like it, so I just added 1 T. brown sugar at the very end and it mellowed out that garlic just a bit. We really enjoyed it! A keeper! Thanks for sharing!
mtlabor July 9, 2011
I just had this forwarded to me by a co-worker - I had no idea!

But I'm glad I came across it (I've been slacking with adding things to Food52) because I need to get myself more active with the site again!

I'm so glad you've been able to enjoy these - they're such an easy side dish, and I love the tip about adding rice wine - going to try it that way soon =) And about the ginger powder (at the time, it was all I had on hand, so I used it) but definitely feel free to sub in fresh ginger any time!
singing_baker June 22, 2011
Made this last night with fresh ginger they were fabulous! I find it tough to find a good green bean side but this one has passed the test!
Author Comment
Jestei June 22, 2011
beans are tough i totally agree; i like Ladystiles idea of using asparagus.
MakeThatMakeThis June 22, 2011
I'm on a constant quest to re-create things I eat at Grand Sichuan, without going to GS so often that they know my order before I sit down, and this looks very convincing! Will have to try with beans from the balcony (amazing. They grew!) this week. Thanks for sharing.
Author Comment
Jestei June 22, 2011
mcs3000 June 21, 2011
The beans sound delish. I've done dinner exchanges before - so fun. Looking forward to your future postings about it.
Author Comment
Jestei June 22, 2011
i have seriously enjoyed it.
Ladystiles June 21, 2011
I used asparagus instead of the green beans, AMAZING! We tossed all the ingredients in an open foil pouch and grilled them, slightly adapting the recipe via cooking method. It was the first thing we ate and wished we had made more. Nice work!
Author Comment
Jestei June 22, 2011
that sounds divine
boulangere June 20, 2011
One of my favorite ways to eat green beans. Also used to be one of my favorite ways to get the table set.
Panfusine June 20, 2011
THis was my craving of choice when expecting my daughter.. I'd make trips to Wegmans grocery stores just to eat this at their fresh prepared foods counter.
boulangere June 20, 2011
You'd be horrified by what I craved and ate when pregnant with the son and the daughter. Nothing so elegant as this.
Author Comment
Jestei June 22, 2011
i am so glad you like it. when i was pregnant i ate mashed potatoes off the back of a mixing spoon.
boulangere June 22, 2011
Leftover spaghetti with marinara sauce, cold, eaten straight out of the container with the refrigerator door open. Yes, I at least used a fork.
chairmanhu June 20, 2011
Oh, and when purchasing xiaoshing rice wine, be wary of bottles that contain salt in the ingredients list. It cheapens it. I've all but given up on shopping for the stuff and let my parents send me good bottles at their leisure. But dry sherry works great as a replacement.
Kristen M. June 20, 2011
What a great tip -- thanks!
Author Comment
Jestei June 20, 2011
very interesting
chairmanhu June 20, 2011
I'm curious to try this with the ginger powder as I always use fresh minced ginger. They're quite different so I'll try it out sometime this week.

Also, adding 1-2 tsp good xiaoshing rice wine (I use dry sherry) at the end with the soy sauce gives it an incredibly fragrant authenticity.
Author Comment
Jestei June 20, 2011
i imagine it would be awesome. i love the last tip. i will do it this week.
mrslarkin June 20, 2011
Yum. This would pair nicely with last week's turkey meatloaf.
Author Comment
Jestei June 20, 2011
and so it did!
drbabs June 20, 2011
Looks great. What did you make as a main dish? and tell us more about dinner exchange--it sounds like a great idea!
drbabs June 20, 2011
Hi--I made this for dinner with the leftover meatloaf you wrote about last week. It was really good! I didn't have xiaoshing rice wine or dry sherry, but I added a little rice vinegar at the end. Thanks for finding these 2 great recipes!
Author Comment
Jestei June 20, 2011
as for what i paired it with: same as you. turkey meatloaf. i am so glad you found a way to improve upon the dish with vinegar. as for the dinner exchange: look to future postings for more on that.
Bevi June 20, 2011
Since I am putting red pepper flakes in most dishes these days, this side hops to the top of the Must Cook list. Thanks Jenny, and to mtlabor as well!
Author Comment
Jestei June 20, 2011
i hope you enjoy!
Panfusine June 20, 2011
nothing like a comfort food to start off Monday morning!! You just MADE this vegetarian's day.Thank you!
Author Comment
Jestei June 20, 2011
great! your recipes look awesome can't wait to try some of them.