Craving Chinese Food, Part 1

Long beans and olives? Yes, it is Chinese.

I could say that it’s the sight of all those Olympic sprinters, synchronized swimmers, and gymnasts competing at full throttle that’s working up my appetite. But really, as I’ve watched the Summer Games, it’s China itself that’s really got me hungry for some delectable Chinese food.

So out came my wok during a break from all that athleticism. I decided to try my hand at these two dishes because they each make use of an ingredient we don’t normally associate with Chinese food. Enjoy one dish today, and the second dish in tomorrow’s FoodGal posting. Make both dishes together and serve with steamed rice for an easy, quick meal. The two dishes especially complement one another because one is a little on the salty side, while the other has a natural, subtle sweetness.

Today’s dish incorporates dry-cured black olives, of all things, which, surprisingly, turn out to be a little-known but traditional Chinese ingredient. “Wok-charred long beans with black olives” was published in the July 2008 issue of Saveur magazine. It’s an adaptation of the recipe from “Around the World in 80 Dinners” (William Morrow). Cheryl Jamison says the olives give the dish a salty pungency akin to Asian shrimp paste. I heartily agree. The beans get a nice smokiness from the high heat of the wok, and the olives, garlic and black vinegar make magic together.

Wok-Charred Long Beans with Black Olives

(serves 4 as part of a family-style meal with rice)

1 1/2 pounds long beans


3 tablespoons canola oil

4 ounces ground pork

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 Thai chili, minced

1/3 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons Chinese black or balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 pound halved and pitted dry-cured black olives

Trim and cut long beans into 2-inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans; cook until crisp-tender, 1-2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer beans to a bowl of ice water; chill. Drain beans.

Heat canola oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground pork; break into small pieces. Cook pork until browned, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a plate, leaving fat in skillet. Raise heat to high; add beans and cook, without stirring, until hot, about 2 minutes. Toss beans, cook, without stirring, until caramelized, 1 minute more. Add garlic, ginger, and chile; cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, black vinegar, and soy sauce; cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add olives and reserved pork; cook for 1 minute more.

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  • mmm, mmm, mmm. This looks sooo good and just too easy not to try! If I don’t have black or balsamic, do you think I could sub some honey with a bit of rice vinegar? The colors are so pleasing.

  • You could try rice vinegar, but it’s a milder, lighter, more delicate taste. I think you should just take the plunge and get a bottle of balsamic. Really, once you have it, you will use it for so many other things _ making vinaigrettes for salads, drizzling over grilled veggies, in stews, marinating chicken, you name it. It’s a staple that you’ll want in your kitchen all the time.

  • This sounds tasty as well. I like that the ground pork is more like a secondary ingredient to the vegetables in these two dishes.

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