Saturday, August 09, 2014

Spicy Long Bean Salad


A small food processor such as a Magic Bullet, or a coffee or spice grinder, turns the tedium of a spice paste into an effortless endeavor!

Just add the remaining dressing ingredients to the spice blender, give a whirl and you're almost done.

Long beans, also known as asparagus beans or yard-long beans, are popular in all Asian cuisines but most prominent on Indian, Thai, Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese menus. The beans are available at all Asian markets but if you have trouble locating them substitute regular green beans; the thinnest possible please, such as haricots verts.

The completed salad needs to be covered and refrigerated for at least a couple of hours before serving. The "rest time" allows the long beans to absorb the salty-sour flavors.


SPICY THAI LONG BEAN SALAD (YAM TUA FAK YOW)

Begin by rinsing and trimming the very ends of 10-15 long beans. Now cut into pieces of a desired length; keep cut beans longer if dramatic plating is your thing. With a wooden mallet - or something similar around your house - pound the cut beans just enough to bruise. Some will split open in a few spots. Don't worry - this allows the dressing to better penetrate and flavor the long beans. Place the beans in a mixing bowl while you make the dressing.

In a small food processor, grind 1 chopped clove of garlic and 3-5 small red or green chilies to a chunky paste. Add 2 T. soy sauce, 2 T. lime or lemon juice and 1 t. sugar. Blend until well mixed.

Pour the dressing over the long beans and stir in 1 medium-sized tomato (thinly sliced into wedges). Toss all thoroughly and set aside for at least 30 minutes before serving. If possible, cover the long bean salad and leave at room temperature for up to three hours. You can also refrigerate the salad overnight for maximum flavor but add the tomato just before serving.

The dressing is simple but effective - salty, sour and concentrated in heat. Try it tossed with steamed, chilled sweet potato slices for an unusual cold side dish. Optional garnishes for the long bean or sweet potato salads include slivered scallions, chopped cilantro or dill leaves and ground roasted peanuts.

And now for the bonus round . . .

Many hot and sour yams (Thai cold salads) and the Northern Thai classic one-dish meal of laab are additionally garnished with a dusting of nutty toasted rice. Given the ease and speed of creating a new and welcome addition to your spice cabinet, why not make some now? 

Sticky Thai rice is most commonly used when preparing this roasted rice condiment but any short-grain white rice will suffice, the starchier the better. Above we used Arborio rice, about 1/4 cup. Add the rice to a dry cast-iron skillet and roast over a medium flame for 7 or 8 minutes. After a couple of minutes begin shaking the pan frequently to avoid burning.

Transfer roasted rice from the iron skillet to another surface and spread out in a single layer. Allow to cool completely, a matter of minutes. If you spot any overly browned kernels, discard.

Place the cooled, roasted rice into a small food processor/Magic Bullet/spice or coffee grinder and process until reduced to powder. A few tiny bits of rice are not only OK they add texture to this versatile Thai condiment.

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