Chinese Yard Long Beans

The bounty that comes from my CSA box is continually astounding to me.

This past Saturday, we were treated to a bundle of one of my favorite Asian vegetables, Vigna sesquipedalis, also known as Chinese yard-long beans. (They are also known as asparagus beans, but I have no idea why–they do not taste a thing like asparagus to me.) These beans are the same thing as a dried pea that is known in the US as black-eyed-peas or crowder peas. I never much cared for black eyed peas when I was growing up–they had an odd sweet smell and flavor that I never grew to like.

What is particularly odd about that is the immature green pods, which are served as yard long beans, do not have a sweet flavor at all. In fact, they have a distinctive starchy flavor, and an interesting tender-crisp texture–almost like regular green beans that have been blanched.They are often likened to green beans, but I don’t think that they are much alike at all–green beans are much sweeter and have a “greener” more grassy flavor. Yard long beans seem to have a starchy, proteinous flavor more like a dried bean, but in a fresh bean form.

They are particularly full of vitamins and nutritients: they are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, folate, protein, complex carbohydrates and a small amount of iron. They are low in calories, and, because they lack the strings that green beans have, they are simpler to prepare: simply snip or cut off the ends, and then cut into 2″ lengths to prepare them to stir fry.

Morganna’s first day of school was today, so I told her I would make her whatever she liked for supper, as a celebration. She begged me to make a stir-fry, something that I haven’t done as much of recently, because as I slow down and my energy wanes, my ability to efficiently do so much kitchen prep is lowered. But, for my girl, of course, I will make a stir fry.

We had the long beans, so I knew I had to use those, and we had pressed tofu and tender boneless pork loin chops. I had fresh green chiles and a sweet bell pepper that I thought would add a note of sugar to the dish, as well as providing a contrasting color to the deep velvety green of the beans. For seasoning, Morganna asked for fermented black beans, so I added sweet onions, garlic and ginger, and I limited the condiments to light soy sauce, Shao hsing wine and sesame oil. The last flavor note I added were three rehydrated black mushrooms, whose umami fragrance really brought a strong element of the savory to the dish.

Stir Fried Yard-Long Beans with Pork and Pressed Tofu


3/4 pound lean pork loin chop, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/4″ wide by 1″ long by 1/4″ thick slices
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3-4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, lightly crushed
1 green jalapeno, cut into thin slivers
1/2″ chunk fresh ginger, peeled, and shredded into very thin slivers
3 large cloves garlic, cut into thin shreds
3 black mushrooms, rehydrated, stemmed and cut into 1/8″ thick slices
1/2 pound pressed tofu cut into similar sized slices as pork
1 tablespoon Shao hsing wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
3/4 pound Chinese yard-long beans, ends trimmed and cut on the bias into 2 1/2″ lengths
1/2 small red sweet bell pepper, cut into very thin, 2″ long slices
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Mix meat and first amounts of wine and soy sauce together and toss with cornstarch until liquids thicken and are clinging to the meat. Set aside to marinate for twenty minutes, preferably while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat wok until it is smoking. Add peanut oil, and allow to heat for another thirty seconds, or until oil ripples and shimmers.

Add onion, black beans, jalapeno and ginger and stir fry for about a minute, or until very fragrant. Add garlic and mushrooms, and stir fry for another minute. Add meat, reserving any marinade that is not clinging to the meat. Spread meat into a single layer onto the bottom of the wok and allow to sit undisturbed to brown for about a minute or so. Add tofu to wok. Stir fry until most of the pink is gone from the meat.

Deglaze wok where marinade has clung to the sides and bottom and browned with wine and tofu, stir rapidly to scrape up marinade bits. Add beans, and stir fry for another minute to minute and a half, or until meat is done.

Add bell pepper, stir fry thirty seconds, then remove from heat and drizzle in sesame oil, stirring well to combine.

Turn out into a heated platter and serve with steamed jasmine rice.


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  1. Mouthful of flavors up there. Simply yummy.

    Asparagus bean, dow gauk, Chinese long beans, Peru bean, and Snake bean are some of the names this vegetable holds. Primarily used for stir-frying with meats and vegetables, this vegetable is used for a variety of other dishes.

    The advantage of this bean over other beans is that it is used for quick dishes. This bean gets cooked faster than any other beans. Whether you braise, saute, stew it or use it in a soup this beans is always paired with stronger flavors like your above recipes.

    The pairings that click with this beans are sausages, meats, poultry, fish, spicy peppers, and rich sauces.

    Comment by Esther — August 23, 2006 #

  2. Yum! I always wondered why my bean stir-fries never came out the way I wanted… I guess I’ve been using the wrong beans. I’ve seen these in Chinatown and I’ll pick some up next time I do a stir-fry.

    Comment by Brenda — August 23, 2006 #

  3. How lucky you are to get long beans in your CSA share!

    Comment by Lydia — August 23, 2006 #

  4. I love these and make them often in a Thai stir fry with Nam Prik Pao – roasted chili paste – and thai basil. I do find these beans a bit hard to digest, but enjoy them anyhow. Plus they are so cool looking! I don’t like black-eyed peas at all, but do like these pods.

    They are nothing like greenbeans, despite a superficial similarity in appearance. I always think of them as being kind of “woody” in flavor. I

    Comment by Diane — August 23, 2006 #

  5. The Saturday Food Show #2

    proudly presents its 2nd issue

    Come and surf the wonderful world of food blogging with me!

    Let’s start at Tigers and Strawberries, where Barbara writes about one of my favorite Asian vegetables, yard-long beans, and serves a mouth-watering Chine…

    Trackback by FoodFreak — August 26, 2006 #

  6. Those long beans are insane! I love similar beans like that in a good stir fry, or added to a dish I learned to love in Singapore called bee hoon – sort of stir fried glass noodles with carrots, beans, pork and prawns. Totally yummy, but so hard to reproduce outside of Asia.

    Comment by risingsunofnihon — August 28, 2006 #

  7. every thang is very yummy i tried everything (insept if it meat in it) love mr bob.j.bills

    Comment by Mr bob.j.bills — September 11, 2006 #

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