Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sesame Garlic Green Beans

Maniac by Michael Sembello
It's the BIG game day this Sunday - the Super Bowl.  It's that day when many people get together to eat great "football" food, anticipate some unbelievably clever advertising campaigns, catch up on the latest, and watch some football in between all of that.  Well, that's been my experience anyway!  My team, sadly, isn't involved this year so my interest is going to be mostly fixed on the food and the commercials.  And the halftime show.  Which will be in my kitchen making these green beans!  And this should be your game plan as well!  Halftime shows are notoriously bad.  Not all of them, mind you.  But the sound is usually off, the choreography either ahead or behind the beat.  If it's an artist you really like, you're usually not happy with the smidgeon of time you get to see them as there are so many things going on on that field that the camera has to be too many "other" places than on them.  I find I get frustrated, wanting to grab the camera through the screen and do it myself.  Nope.  The halftime show should be wherever you're watching.  You turn on this song, grab your wok, and do your own kitchen dance.  It works.  I know because my daughter figured out the choreography for me last night.  She used the entire space, including the fridge and sink area.  It was intriguing.  Trust me.  These green beans are done in a flash!  And they're beautifully crisp tender and, at least for me, they're finger food!

I discovered the Mustard Seed Asian Cafe in Spokane, Washington on one of my first trips to visit the city.  It's located in the Northtown Mall on Division Street.  I'm always on Division Street when I go to Spokane.  It's miles and miles of great shopping.  And this particular time I ended up being exhausted and ready to eat at this point along the way.  A quick look at the menu and peek inside the door told  me that this place had possibilities.

Possibilities?!  Wow.  Have you ever cried because something you were eating was so good?  Outside of a Chocolate Chip Cookie, I mean.  The first time there I didn't order an appetizer.  I ordered the Shrimp Osaka and, seriously, wanted to cry.  I have yet to figure that sauce out but have no problem driving two hours to Spokane to "work on it."

On my next visit to The Mustard Seed our server heard us laboring over which appetizer we wanted.  They said without hesitation, "You want the green beans."  The debate ended and we stared at them.  "Trust me - you want the green beans.  If you don't like them you don't have to pay."  When a server is that confident I pay attention.  We ordered the green beans.

So very very very good!
I order these every time now without fail.  When I eventually became interested in all things culinary, I started trying to decipher them.  That they were simple and straightforward was evident in their flavor.  Fresh - both texturally and in taste.  I could taste the smokiness of sesame oil, the garlic was visible, and I knew that soy sauce was the main star in the sauce.  

One day I saw a package of beautifully trimmed fresh green beans at Costco and decided that it was time to give those green beans a try at home.  I made some quick notes as to how I would proceed, agonized over whether to pre-blanch or not, prepped my garlic, and gave it a whirl.

It worked!  They were great!  Fabulous even!

I've served these with my Christmas Eve ham dinner to rave reviews.  I've served them along with grilled chicken.  And I can definitely see them alongside some wings!  I can see them being part of every kind of meal as they are just as delicious when they've cooled down as they are straight from the pan.

I do not blanch my green beans first as I love the crisp tender feel.  But you could do a very quick blanch in some hot water first if you prefer.  I even used some frozen green beans once and they worked very well.  Sometimes I use cornstarch in the liquid, other times I don't.  But the cornstarch gives the sauce a velvety viscosity that coats those beans.
This is my take on those delicious green beans from The Mustard Seed Asian Cafe.  Enjoy!

Sesame Garlic Green Beans
serves 4 - 6
1 lb. green beans, whole, stems trimmed
1 T. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. sugar
2 T. soy sauce or tamari sauce
1 T. black bean garlic sauce
1/2 t. cornstarch
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. chili paste, if desired
toasted sesame seeds as garnish

Make sure your ingredients are prepped and ready before beginning.  Stir together the soy sauce, black bean garlic sauce, and the cornstarch (if using) and set aside.  This goes fast and requires your full attention.  We're working with high heat and there's no time for running and grabbing something once it gets going!  Your eyes must be constantly assessing the ingredients in the pan. 

Place your wok - or a large nonstick skillet - over medium high to high heat.  When it's hot add the vegetable oil.  I add ingredients to the pan by pouring around the upper part of the sides and letting it run down to the bottom.  Once that oil is hot and looks like it's shivering, add your green beans and start tossing or stirring to get them evenly coated.  Do a frequent toss or stir as they sear and cook for about 3 minutes.  

Garlic burns very very easily so you'll want to be very quick about the next step.  Add the minced garlic and toss and stir to get it evenly distributed.  Then keep a steady toss or stir of the beans and garlic for another minute - being sure to not let the pan sit still over the heat too long and burning the garlic.  When the garlic is fragrant - after about a minute - turn off the heat.  Sprinkle the sugar over the beans and toss.  Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan by pouring it around the upper side and letting it run down into the beans.  It will thicken immediately.  If it gets too thick simply add a little more soy sauce to loosen it up.  Toss and stir to coat the beans.  Drizzle the sesame oil in and the chili paste, if using, and toss to coat.  Place in a serving dish and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.  Dig in!


  1. I am seriously looking forward to trying this...I had the same experience at the Mustard Seed Cafe at Northtown Mall! My server told me I wouldn't be disappointed, and she was right! They were so good, I find myself craving them all the would be wonderful if I could make them at home! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tried Bobby Flays take, which was delish, but yours sound more like the Mustard Seeds. Can't wait to try. Thanks.

  3. FYI: I bought a bottle of the Osaka Sauce from Mustard Seed at the Missoula Fresh Market in Missoula. They sell a couple others too.

  4. Noodle Express sells pint containers of the Osaka and ginger sauces they use for their Osaka dishes. They also sell the bottle sauces but they recommend their fresh made sauces. They are worth every pennny.