If you like green beans, you’ll love long beans.
These distinctive, 12- to 18-inch beans earn their moniker. They are also called snake beans, yard-long beans or asparagus beans. In Cantonese, they are dau gok.
Long beans are generally about as thick as a pencil and have a solid, meatier texture than their more conventional green bean cousins.
The difference in size and texture means that long beans take less time to cook and are just as delicious when slightly al dente as they are when cooked through. I enjoy their toothsomeness, so tend to cook them slightly less. They can be found at farmers markets and some grocery stores.
The accompanying recipe for Spicy Long Beans is inspired by a dish I ate at Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco. The beans were cut into ¼-inch pieces and cooked with a kick-your-behind chile sauce.
My version, however, is less incendiary. It incorporates jarred Asian chile paste and ground pork for additional texture and flavor.
There are many brands of Asian chile paste; some, like sambal oelek, use fresh chiles. Others are oil-based. It will make a difference, but you can use what you have on hand. I use one that comes in oil, which adds its own heat, so just add the chile paste to taste.
Cold lettuce — a good counterpoint to the beans — can be offered on the side for everyone to make their own lettuce cup appetizers. The dish can also serve as an entree, accompanied by steamed rice. In either case, you can garnish it with roasted, unsalted peanuts to add crunch.
If you don’t want to hunt for chile paste, try the recipe for long beans with cracked pepper, which is simple and delicious.