Showing posts with label Chinese long beans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chinese long beans. Show all posts

Jul 17, 2017

Ingredients: Yard-Long beans, Snake beans, Asparagus beans, Bodi, Bora, Tane Bodi, Chang Jiang Dou, Jhudunga, Choda, Chawli, Barbati, Lubiya, Payaru

This variety of cowpea is variously called yard-long beans, asparagus beans, snake beans, bodi, bora, tane bodi, chang jiang dou, jhudunga, choda, chawli, barbati, lubiya, payaru, or Chinese long beans. These quick-growing beans are a staple vegetable in much of South Asia due to their tolerance of harsh sun, heavy rains, high humidity, tropical diseases and pests. While they can be eaten raw they’re often enjoyed in tasty stir-fries, curries, and omelettes.

Yard-long beans can certainly grow up to a yard in length, but most types should be picked when they’re much shorter. Their scientific name, Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis, actually gives the best indicator of their length. Sesquipedalis literally means a foot and a half. Many varieties are indeed best enjoyed as a vegetable when around around eighteen inches in length. 


In Nepal these beans are called tane bodi which simply means "long beans." In different regions of India they are called payaru, jhudunga, chawli, bodi, barbati, lubiya, and chora. In Central America, South America, and the Caribbean they are known as bora or bodi. In the Philippines, they are known as sitaw or butong. In China they are called chang jiang dou. In Thailand they are called tua fak yaw.

Flower of  Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis

Yard-long beans do look a bit like overgrown green beans as they are both members of the legume family. But yard-long beans belong to different genera than green beans. They're actually close relatives of cowpeas, field peas, crowder peas, and black-eyed peas. With most types of cowpeas only the hulled peas are consumed. However, with yard-long beans it’s more common to eat the immature green pod- just like green beans. In some parts of Africa and Asia the thetender green leaves are prepared and eaten like spinach too.


The yard-long bean is a vigorous climbing annual vine growing 9 to 12 feet and requires a trellis or support. The vine prefers a light, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8 which has been  enriched with compost or rotted chicken manure. The plant begins to produce long pods ranging from 14 to 30 inches as soon as 60 days after sowing. The pods hang in pairs that should be picked for vegetable use before matured. Checking or harvesting yard-long beans daily is a necessity because they grow extremely quickly in warm climates. When harvesting it is important not to pick the buds which are above the bean as the plant will set more beans upon the same stem. They tolerate heat and humidity much better than common beans. Keeping the pods picked is essential to maintain production.

 Seeds or beans from Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis

If left unpicked the yard-long bean pods will grow up to 1 meter (3 feet) in length and produce beans that look very similar to black-eyed peas. Fret not if you find yourself with several forgotten pods as these beans can be used like dry beans in soups.



You’ll find yard-long beans in light and dark shades of green most often. They do come in in red, purplish, or speckled varieties too. The lighter green yard-long beans are purported to have a sweeter, nuttier, more delicate flavor than the deeper colored varieties. The palest green ones are therefore favored for quick-cooking dishes. When cooked the red, purple, and speckled beans turn green. All yard-long beans are stringless too unlike green beans.


Yard-long beans are normally sold in bundles in markets. I've always seen them in Asian markets and wondered how to cook them. Choose thin beans free from bulging or splitting. Split or bulging pods indicate that the beans inside are too developed. Don’t be overly concerned with floppiness or wrinkles. Use your yard-long beans within two to three days as they can quickly go from floppy to limp and wilted after which they fall to pieces.

Chopped yard-long beans just dropped into hot oil for a Nepali style stir-fry

Yard-long beans become soggy and bland when boiled, blanched, or steamed. The beans are best chopped into smaller lengths and cooked quickly in oil. When sautéed, stir-fried, or deep-fried, their flavor intensifies and their texture becomes deliciously crispy. Most Asian recipes wisely use these methods to prepare yard-long beans. Please ignore crazy westerners who implore you to blanch, steam, or boil yard-long beans in their ridiculous recipes- they know not what they do. 

Chopped yard-long beans after stir-frying for about 7 minutes, shriveled, wrinkled, and tenderly crisp

As you can see in the photos above yard-long beans wrinkle or shrivel and crisp up as they fry down. I've heard yard-long beans described as being similar to green beans, asparagus, and mushrooms in flavor. To me they don't taste nor smell anything like green beans, asparagus, or mushrooms. The texture is completely different that green beans when cooked also. While cooking they give off a scent similar to peanuts and potatoes. When prepared in a traditional Nepali stir-fry or tareko their flavor and texture reminds me of hash browns or shredded pan-fried potatoes.


If you live in an area with  hot, humid, tropical Summers you might consider planting yard-long beans in your garden. They are easy to cook, easy to grow, attractive to look at, and quite nutritious being rich in vitamin C and calcium. These are one of the few vegetables that will actually continue to bear throughout the Monsoon. If not just stop by your local Asian market and buy some! I'm certainly going to try growing them in my garden and will be featuring recipes utilizing yard-long beans on this very blog!

Calmly currying on,
Bibi
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