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Sweet-and-Spicy Ginger Green Beans

4 Servings

10 minutes

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The challenge of stir-frying green beans is that, more often than not, the flavorings slide off and you’re left biting into a bland bean. The key is cooking them in a sauce that actually sticks. Chef Charles Phan, owner of The Slanted Door, a popular Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco, caramelizes sugar, then stir-fries string beans in the blistering heat of a wok. A final toss with sake and fish sauce coats the charred beans with a dark, bittersweet sauce. We adjusted the recipe to work without a wok. Phan’s recipe calls for blanching the beans first. We simplified by adding the beans to a very hot pan with a small amount of oil, then making a sauce around them as they cooked. We found a Dutch oven worked best to control splattering—drying the beans thoroughly also helped (though a large skillet works in a pinch). Cutting the beans on a bias gave us more surface area for better browning. To re-create Phan’s flavorful sauce—itself a take on nuoc mau, or Vietnamese caramel sauce—we used brown sugar instead of taking the time to caramelize white sugar. It gave us comparable depth and flavor.




Don't use an ill-fitting lid. A proper seal was key to this recipe, whether you cook the beans in a Dutch oven or a skillet. Have the lid ready as soon as you add water to the pan.

10 minutes



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Peter R.
February 9, 2024
An inveterate opponent to a convert...GREAT Green Beans!
My memories of green beans was the horror of my mother pouring them out of a can just before dinner and until now I have refused to eat them. However, I made these for lunch with my wife and we both loved it. The whole dish came together in short order and we served it with steamed rice! As usual, MS continues to be excellent at providing new avenues to discover in cooking. Thank you again for helping us all be intrepid cooks!
David E.
June 27, 2023
Terrific and surprising flavors
I worried that the sweet-and-sour thing would be insipid with green beans but this dish rocked. I got a nice char on the bottom of the beans before they steamed and the ginger and hot red pepper flakes added bite. The mild rice vinegar gave a mellow sourness without any distracting winey-ness. Follow the recipe closely--it works!
Stephen B.
March 31, 2024
Bean There and Back
If you're looking for a new and different way to enjoy green beans you just found it. I follow the recipe closely with the possible exception of shaving a bit off the time intervals and adding a little less water to preserve a more al dente bean. Consider sprinkling sliced mushrooms over the top just before adding the water. All in all, a very nice variation for enjoying the humble green bean.
Charles M.
July 2, 2022
Deceptively wonderful side dish
I have told so many people about this recipe and served it many times. People just don’t believe the ingredients and are most surprised about the fish sauce ingredient.
Shefa B.
June 19, 2022
Nice but Won't Make it to My Personal Cookboot
I gave it three stars because I chalk some of the final outcome to me - perhaps I didn't get the pan hot enough or some other instruction but I didn't get the char and I didn't get much flavor (perhaps because of it). Still, it was a nice change.
Janine D.

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Cora D.

These green beans are fantastic and have become part of the weekly rotation. Make sure to let them char enough, you'll be rewarded for your patience! I always use red boat or three crabs brand of fish sauce- makes a big difference! Ground white pepper is nice addition, but won't make or break the meal if you don't have it. The flavor profile of these beans go well with lots of different mains. Have also used haricots verts in the past, works just as well but adjust for time to avoid soggy beans.

John M.

Made this today and it was superb! I was a bit concerned about using fish oil (smells pretty bad, frankly), but after all was said and done (and cooked!), these beans were delicious with a wonderfully complex flavor.

Scott N.

I just finished eating this dish for dinner and I must say it was pretty amazing. I was expecting to be disappointed as I thought with the amount of ginger called for it would over power the dish but it did not in any way. I used Three Crab fish sauce and grape seed oil for my vegetable oil, I've never used either in my cooking but I think it's the fish sauce that gives this dish a real depth of flavor. The dish was great and I added it to my list of things that will impress your dinner guests.

Natalia S.

These are amazing!!! Love love love !! The flavor!!! So quick!!!

Peter Chris S.

Great flavor and both easy and fast to make. Will happily make again.