I’m trying to recall how this dish came about but it has been over 20 years, so the memory is a little hazy. I remember cooking this dish for the very first time when I was a teenager and I think it came about from my love for the salty, crispy anchovies. :D I don’t recall seeing my mum, or my grandmother making this particular dish before I did but at the same time, I can’t remember what was going through my head when I decided to add the anchovies to the green beans. I do remember though that I cooked this dish for my grandmother once, and she commented on how delicious it was cooking the green beans this way (and let me tell you, it’s not an easy feat to get a praise from my grandmother). :D That’s as much history as I can remember, and since I’ve never outgrown my love for anchovies, this is still one of my favorite veggie dishes to make. Enjoy!
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 ounces dried anchovies*
1 small shallot, sliced thin or minced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin or minced
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut on the bias**
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Salt and white pepper to taste
*Back in the days, we used to clean the anchovies (i.e. remove the heads and guts) before using them. However, I don’t do that anymore simply because it is such a pain to perform that tedious task. Besides, they all taste crunchy to me after they are fried. :D But if it really bothers you and if you have a choice at your Asian store, buy the ones that are super-tiny or ones that have already been cleaned. For the really tiny ones, you would hardly be able to make out the heads or the guts, so just use them whole. The important thing is to make sure that you get anchovies that have been salted (so remember to check the ingredients).
**I prep my green beans by snapping off the stem end and pulling it down either side to remove the “string” if there’s any. Then, I cut them into bite-size pieces – either straight or for a fancier look, on a bias (i.e. french cut).
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the anchovies and fry until deep golden-brown and crispy, stirring constantly. Remove to a plate, draining and leaving the oil in the skillet (I would recommend removing the skillet from the heat as you’re doing this since the anchovies burn easily at this point). Anchovies may not seem too crispy while they are still hot but don’t worry, they’ll crisp up as they cool. Set aside until needed.
Leave about one teaspoon oil in the skillet (discard the rest if you have extra) and add the shallot and garlic. Cook on medium heat until fragrant and lightly golden brown. Add green beans, turn heat up to medium-high, and stir-fry for about a minute. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water (more if necessary) and continue to stir-fry until green beans are cooked (we like ours tender but still crisp). Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and stir in the anchovies. Plate and serve immediately.
The anchovies I bought came in a 4-ounce package. If you ended up having extra and are not sure what to do with the rest, fry them up like you would in the green bean recipe and while they are still warm, season them with white pepper to taste. Then, mix the crispy anchovies with an equal amount of roasted peanuts for a delicious and addictive snack (this is one of my favorite Chinese New Year treats). Yum! :D