Szechaun-Style Green Beans

This dish is a manifestation of Clare Heal’s use-meat-as-a-‘seasoning’ philosophy. It shows how a little bit of pork mince can go a long way, meaning that it barely touches your meat ration. Vegetarians can easily replace the mince for diced mushrooms, or meat-free mince substitutes though. This meal would normally be served with rice but you could also serve it with homemade pitta bread, tortilla wraps or British grown quinoa.  if you don’t like things very hot, I’d recommend reducing the amount of dried chillies that you use.


200g fine beans

1tbsp oil

100g pork mince

½ tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, lightly crushed

5 whole dried red chillies

3 cloves garlic, grated or crushed

2cm ginger, grated

2 tbsp ya cai



  1. Blanch the beans in boiling water for four minutes then drain and transfer to a  bowl of cold water (this means they keep their colour and also don’t go soft).
  2. Add a little oil to a wok or large frying pan over high heat. When it’s hot, add the pork mince and fry until browned. Don’t move it around too much. You want it to caramelise slightly. Then add the soy sauce and sugar and fry for another minute or so. Remove to a plate.
  3. Break the chillies up a little so their seeds can come out. Add a little more oil to the wok. When hot add the chillies and peppercorns and cook for a minute. Add the ginger, garlic and ya cai. Fry for 30 seconds then add the beans. Fry until beginning to blister then return the pork to the pan just to heat it through.
  4. Season to taste and serve immediately


Ifs and Ands

  • The classic dish is with green beans but this would work with almost any green summer veg. Runner beans, broccoli florets or courgette batons would all be good.
  • Ya cai is Szechuan preserved mustard greens. You can get them in Asian supermarkets or online. [] They definitely add something to the dish but if you can’t get hold of any try substituting it with a little finely chopped sauerkraut or kimchee. Or do without and the dish will still be delicious!


This recipe is written by Clare Heal: a food writer, a private chef and a 2015 WW2 Rationing Challenge participant! You can read more about her on her website and you can read her blog post about the WW2 Rationing Challenge here