Sunday 24 October 2010


Japanese-inspired French Beans with Sesame Dressing/Japansk-inspirerede Bønner med Sesamfrø/日式四季豆[rì shì sì jì dòu]

Serves 4

Preparation and cooking time: 30 - 45 minutes

- 500g French beans chopped into pieces 1 inch in length

Garlic oil:
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 TBS cooking oil

- 1/3 cup toasted white sesame seeds
- 1-2 TBS soya sauce
- ½ tsp sugar (I prefer to use cane sugar or brown sugar, but any sugar will do)
- Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Toast the sesame seeds on a pan until golden. I first heat the pan on high heat (no. 9 on my stove). Once the pan is hot, I reduce to medium heat to no. 7 and stir for around 2 minutes, then turn the fire down to low heat (no. 5.5) on my stove and stir occasionally until the sesame seeds turn golden. Then grind half of it in my mini-blender.

2. Mix the toasted white sesame seeds (grind and un-grind together), soya sauce, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl.

3. Bring to boil a pot of water with salt to blanch the French beans.

4. When the water is boiling, throw in the French beans and let it cook for 2 minutes or until they turn green and cooked, but still crispy.

5. Drain the French beans and plunge it immediately into a big bowl of cold water. This is called the shocking method to bring out the flavour in the French beans.

6. Heat 2 TBS of oil on a separate pan and fry the garlic until golden. Then pour the hot garlic oil on the French beans and mix well.

7. Turn off the fire, and while the pan is still hot, pour the rest of the dressing on the pan, stir and take it out. Then pour the dressing into the french beans and mix well.

8. Serve :-)

Additional Comments:
This is a Japanese-inspired dish, cooked partly the Chinese way – frying the garlic oil for the dressing. This is such a great hit with J and my Significant Other. J has been boycotting all the vegetables that I give him, but this evening, he ate all his French beans for dinner and asked for second and third helping - all in all, he ate a full rice bowl of French beans. Suddenly, I felt so energized, that I’ve got to record it down in my blog. Nothing gives me more fulfillments than when the food I cook is appreciated. Similarly, I would feel so tired after making dinner, on days when J does not eat his food.

This is a super-healthy dish – the goodness of sesame seeds and French beans. And the way the French beans is cooked – not overcooked, almost just raw, but not raw, retains lots of the vitamins. And it tastes so good, without adding any meat. Somehow soya sauce with sesame seeds heat on the pan gives it a new twist to the flavour of soya sauce alone or sesame seed alone.

It is possible to make toddler like vegetables after all!!! I am so excited that I am going to try serving this dish again and again, until J and my Significant Other gets bored with it.

I know it is difficult with toddlers and their “rebelliousness”, but I am determined not to compromise on J’s nutrition and his good eating habits, that I worked so hard to achieve since he was a baby. It takes time and energy, but also lots of fun.

I am using a combination of methods – from being firm with J when he wants yet another piece of apple chips – no means no, although inside me, my heart is melting… to researching for ways to make tasty and healthy food, meaning cutting down on the dairy, sugar and meat. Deep-frying is a NO NO, but stir fry is alright with me in my kitchen. Thus, I am really pleased with this dish, as it qualifies as a super healthy, yet tasty dish according to my definition.

Not all Japanese food is healthy, as they use a lot of sugar (oops, sorry, here I may be offending the Japanese). The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons (TBS) of sugar, but I only used ½ teaspoon (tsp) here. It is sweet enough for our family. In fact, I think 2 TBS of sugar would make the food taste like candy, and I don’t like my vegetables tasting like candy.

I only ground half of the sesame seeds to give it more different texture, so that I can still taste the whole sesame seeds.

My Significant Other's verdict: It tasted very Japanese and very delicious. My Significant Other is very picky about Asian food, and loves Japanese food. Thus, if I can win his verdict, I am really all smiles. I didn't add the mirin wine that the original recipe calls for, as I am serving to toddler. But it is really so delicious, that one can easily do without it. It also saves cost, as Japanese condiments are very expensive in Denmark.

Try it with your family and your toddler, it tastes really good with just ½ tsp of sugar. I think the "shocking" method of cooking the French beans has a lot of credit to take, as well as the sesame seeds as an ingredient. And the combination of the Japanese and Chinese cooking philosophy gathers the best from both world, making this dish a winner.


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