There are number recurring ingredients that are the secret sauces, so to speak (Yay! Alliteration!), of Thai and other types of Southeast Asian food. These are the keys to what makes it so addicting in that elusive sometimes slightly haunting way.
Fish sauce, ginger, shallots and garlic, these are some of the building blocks of Southeast Asian food. And also, lemongrass, which is an ingredient you won’t try once, but rather then feel the need to seek opportunities to make part of your cooking world. As its name suggests, it has a citric tartness to it, and when heated (it pretty much needs to be cooked and softened for it to be edible) give off the most perfumey lemony aroma.
Lemongrass is becoming easier to find, and it can be placed in different areas of the supermarket produce aisle—maybe near the ginger or the herbs. If you don’t see it, ask for it—it is pale and skinny and tends to hide. Make sure to remove the outer harder layers, and the base of the bulb, and the tough top of the stalk, and very finely mince it, as it’s a woody little bit of produce, and needs to be well broken down before using.
Hot, sour, salty, sweet are the flavors that make up Thai and other Southeast Asian food, mostly used all in one dish, rolling around with each other like frisky puppies. Sometimes one flavor takes center stage, sometimes not all four are in play, but these contrasting tastes are what make this cuisine so eternally interesting.
Here you can see—salty peanuts and soy sauce, spicy ginger and garlic and shallots and hot pepper flakes, a bit of sweet sugar, a little sour from the lemon grass. While I like green beans and cook them often, I don’t tend to think of them as exciting. These… these are kind of exciting!
I served these up with some Hoisin Shrimp, and it was a truly good meal, an interesting balance of comforting and exotic.
Serve Thai Green Beans with:
- Smoky Sweet Thai Grilled Flank Steak Salad
- Thai Cucumber Salad
- Thai Chicken Thighs
- Pad Thai
- Thai Salmon
- Asian Beef Mushroom Burgers
Also, this: 7 Great Green Bean Recipes to Shake Up the Holidays.
Thai Green Beans
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable canola or peanut oil
- 2 stalks lemongrass outer layers peeled, top few inches and bottom trimmed, and finely minced
- 4 shallots halved and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 pounds green beans trimmed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts to serve salted or not, optional
- Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet with a lid. Add the lemon grass and shallots and sauté for 3 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the green beans, season with salt (lightly!) and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic stir for one more minute. Stir the soy sauce mixture again and add it to the pan. Cover the pan and steam and simmer for 3 more minutes, until the green beans are crisp tender. Remove the lid and stir for another minute or two until most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the beans are just tender and glazed with the sauce. Sprinkle with the peanuts, if using, and serve hot or warm.
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