Cooking Long Beans in Lao-Style

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long-beans_cThe Ho family, farmers and owners of Ho Farms in Kahuku, are characteristic of many Southeast Asian families in that the everyday food they eat is a reflection of a multicultural ethnic background. Fried rice - Chinese-style with Laotian touches - is an almost everyday lunch for them. But Laotian-style green papaya salad appears on the table very often, too. As do vegetables stir-fried in Thai red curry paste.

By Wanda A. Adams

The Ho family, farmers and owners of Ho Farms in Kahuku, are characteristic of many Southeast Asian families in that the everyday food they eat is a reflection of a multicultural ethnic background. Though mother Le Xieng Ho was born in Laos, she is ethnically Chinese. Father Wei Chong Ho is Chinese and Laotian. Children Shin, 27, and Neil, 23, moved to the Islands with their parents when they were very young and enjoy both Southeast Asian and Western foods.

So it is that fried rice - Chinese-style with Laotian touches - is an almost everyday lunch for them. But Laotian-style green papaya salad appears on the table very often, too. As do vegetables stir-fried in Thai red curry paste. The two cuisines have similarities, and since many Thai restaurant owners here are ethnically Lao, the two cuisines blur, particularly in Hawai'i.

In a cooking session in her outdoor and indoor kitchens, Mrs. Ho shared the simple recipes that the family often eats, sitting around the kitchen table, or standing up, on the go between farm jobs. (You'll notice a certain long bean theme here: This is one of the crops the Hos grow, in addition to their signature mini tomato color blend.)

Islanders who love Thai or Vietnamese food generally love green papaya salad, but Laotian-style salad is made a bit differently and offers a different taste experience. It begins with technique: Not only papaya is used, but also other vegetables, such as long beans or cucumber and tomatoes. And, rather than being simply julienned, the papaya is crushed, along with the other vegetables, to express juices to mingle with the flavoring ingredients.

For this, a Laotian-style mortar and pestle are used. Unlike the squat stone Thai vessels, this is a bell-jar-shaped, deep, rimmed pot in which a wooden pestle is used. The motion is not the circular grinding one used in making a Thai-style spice paste in the stone mortar but a straight up-and-down thumping. The point is not to mash the vegetables but merely to break them open a bit. It's the work of a few minutes. The depth of the vessel and the curved rim keep ingredients from flying out, and Mrs. Ho deftly uses a spoon to combine and toss ingredients between every few thumps.

The chili peppers used are longish, bright-red ones. A word about spice. Laos like it hot. In preparing this salad for us, Mrs. Ho used two chili peppers and it was quite fiery but not unbearable. Know your limits.


 

About long beans

Vigna unguiculata, subspecies sesquipedalis (Sesquipedalis means foot-and-a-half long in Latin), aka Chinese long bean, yard-long bean, asparagus bean

  • Member of the black-eyed pea family.
  • Grows on vines, with beans drooping down from leafy stems.
  • Year-round crop.
  • Flavor similar to green beans, though slightly less sweet; texture less crisp and firm.
  • Store in refrigerator crisper up to seven to 10 days.
  • May be eaten raw or cooked.
  • For eating as a green bean, harvested while pods are smooth and straight, not bumpy, meaning the beans have not yet matured; sometimes allowed to mature, in which case the beans are popped out of the pod and eaten as black-eyed peas.
  • Rich in vitamin A.
  • Best quickly stir-fried or steamed; overcooking causes mushy texture.

 

Here are some recipes with long beans:

Long Bean Salad with Green Papaya

Fried Rice with Long Beans

Long Beans in Hot Curry Paste


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