Pacific Northwest: Taste

Thai-Style Bean Salad
Adapted from "Hot Sour Salty Sweet" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Serves 4
1/2 pound fresh yard-long beans or green beans, cut into 11/2 inch lengths
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon unsalted peanuts
1 tablespoon dried shrimp (optional)
1 to 2 Thai or serrano chilies (to taste), chopped
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (I recommend a fishier sauce such as Squid or Tiparos, but if you are new to fish sauce, you may try a milder sauce like Baby)
2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1. Unless your beans are perfectly fresh and tender, parboil for 3 to 5 minutes until firm but not tough. Rinse the beans under cold water.

2. Place the garlic, peanuts, dried shrimp, chilies and sugar in a large mortar or food processor and pound or process to a coarse paste. If using a processor, transfer the paste to a bowl.

3. Stir in lime juice and fish sauce. Taste the dressing for a balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet. If too hot or sour, add a bit more sugar. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce. Experiment a bit and see how the flavors evolve as you adjust each ingredient.

4. Add the tomatoes and half the beans. Pound gently with the mortar or a wooden spoon. The idea is not to crush the beans but to bruise them lightly so they absorb a bit of the dressing. Add the rest of the beans, stir, and pound a bit more.

5. Turn the salad out onto a serving plate or shallow bowl. Serve with sticky rice, jasmine rice or alone as an appetizer.

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