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Sweet and Spicy Snake Beans

The  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week had to feature snake beans. Now I have them coming on, the poor old Blue Lakes and Purple Kings have dropped right out of favour, left to mature for seed for storing. Snake beans are more tropical than most bean varieties, adapted to the tropical summer monsoon belt.  They like hot wet weather. It has been a cooler than normal year this year, and the earlier rounds grew but slowly and didn’t set very many flowers or fruit. But we have hit the hot wet weather this month, and this is the first round now that is really bearing well.

They’re a beautiful plant – tall climbing and lush with lovely lilac flowers. They need a trellis or fence at least a couple of metres tall to climb, and when they bear well, they really bear well. I am picking about 250 grams a day from a fence-trellis just a couple of metres long. I like the brown seeded variety – it seems to bear better for me. Some years though, brown seeded snake bean seed seems to be just about unavailable, so it must be tricky for others to grow. Black seeds are much more readily available.

They’re fantastically good for you – one of the richest sources of folate and Vitamin A, even amongst beans which are all pretty good sources.  Lots of Vitamin C and good amounts of a range of minerals.

This recipe has chili in it, but it’s actually not very hot. I order “medium” in Indian restaurants, and this is mild for my taste. My partner orders “hot”, and he added a sprinkle of finely diced chili over the top. Non-spice-likers may want to reduce the chili right down, but the sweetness mellows out the spiciness nicely.

The Recipe:

Makes two large serves.  Leftovers are good for lunches.

This is good served over rice or noodles.  I served it over soba noodles, which take just minutes to cook. If you are serving over brown rice, get that on first because the rest of the dish is really fast.

The Vegetables:

Prepare the vegetables first, because once you start cooking, it goes fast.

You really just need young, crisp snake beans – 250 grams of them, trimmed and cut into 3 cm lengths.  The rest of the vegies are optional. I used a small onion, sliced lengthways (top to bottom) in thin slices, and a carrot julienned just for a bit of colour. You could also use capsicum or oyster mushrooms. But not much of them. The snake beans are the star.

The Spice Paste:

Use a mortar and pestle, or the spice grinder on a food processor, to grind to a paste:

  • 1 chili
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh ginger
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh turmeric (or ½ – 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • white part of a lemon grass stem


Heat a wok or large fry pan up and add two dessertspoons of macadamia or peanut oil.
Add the spice paste, get it sizzling, and almost straight away add half a cup of cashews. Stir to coat and get them sizzling, then almost straight away add the vegetables.
Cook over a high heat, stirring, for a few minutes till the cashews get a bit of colour and the onion softens, then add
  • a cup of water
  • 2 dessertspoons of soy sauce
  • 2 dessertspoons of brown sugar
Cook for around 10 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced. Taste and adjust the soy – you may like it a little saltier.
To finish, add
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped herbs  – we did a taste test and decided our most favourite was Vietnamese mint, followed by Thai basil, followed by coriander.
Stir the herbs in then almost straight away take it off the heat and serve, over a bed of rice or noodles. Spice lovers may like to sprinkle with extra chili.
Are you Tuesday Night Vego Challengers? Feel free to add links in the Comments.
{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Kate January 31, 2012, 2:18 pm

    Looks very yummy indeed. we don’t grow snake beans. I wonder if they would do OK down this far. I did a pasta dish with a crumble using left overs and oats in the crumble.

  • Linda January 31, 2012, 2:29 pm

    Hi Kate, I’ve seen snake beans in the Markets in Sydney. I’d certainly give them a go down your way. They’re such a nice bean.

  • Sarah January 31, 2012, 11:19 pm

    Next summer I’m keen to try and grow snakebeans. They’re very tasty, but the ones in the supermarket are always sad and wilted. I did see some at the markets, might have to get some on Sunday.

    Here’s my effort this week – a spicy tofu hotpot.

  • L January 31, 2012, 11:20 pm

    Better late that never tonight Linda. I totally cheated this week – steamed veggies, mashed potato and gravy – pathetic, huh?

  • L January 31, 2012, 11:20 pm
  • Linda February 1, 2012, 8:57 am

    Vegies as themselves are one of my very favourite dinners. Fresh, in season produce, simply prepared. Great chefs cook like that!

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