Yard-long beans — one of those ingredients I have seen in markets and eaten at Chinese buffets, but never cooked for myself. So when I saw this gorgeous coil of beans at the Asian market, I remembered seeing a Vietnamese recipe for them in one of my books and promptly brought them home to cook.
At the Saigon Super Market (in Raleigh, behind the Wal-Mart on New Hope Church Rd.), I also found some other key ingredients for my Vietnamese pantry. These included coconut milk, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, rice flour, tamarind, dried shrimp, and fermented bean curd. I’ve used most of these before, except for those last two ingredients, which still seem a little intimidating…. I had already purchased some rice wrappers and rice noodles on a previous trip. Many of the fresh ingredients in Vietnamese cooking are items you can find in any grocery store – like carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro and mint.
There are at least 2 different kinds of yard-long beans (probably many more), and the ones I found were similar to what we in the U.S. would consider “regular” green beans. I cut them into shorter lengths and stir-fried them. I’ll keep looking for the other kind, which are described as darker green, thinner, crunchier and sweeter. Nonetheless these were very tasty, stir-fried simply with a couple of cloves of garlic and a dash of fish sauce, and finished with a few grinds of black pepper. This dish was called Dau Xao, from the cookbook Authentic Vietnamese Cooking.