Sesame Soy Glazed Green Beans

I better just say this straight out: my recipe for week three of Summer Fest 2009 isn’t a 5 minute, less-than-3 ingredients recipe. But if you’ve been coming here a while, you know that’s generally not my style.

You’re going to have to use your knife skills. And dirty up a couple pots.

But if you love to cook and love incredibly explosive flavors, this might be the recipe for you.

illustration by Matt Armendariz of

illustration by Matt Armendariz of

The Summer Fest cross-pollination blogging project’s third week, created by gardening maven Margaret Roach of Away To Garden, is officially underway with a greens and beans theme.

Earlier this summer I wrote about how to cook Swiss chard and collard greens. Now I’m tackling beans — green beans.

But before I get to my post, here’s what the co-creators of Summer Fest have cooked up:

I borrowed a soy glaze from a recipe in my book The Cool Mountain Cookbook: A Gourmet Guide to Winter Retreats. It really belongs to a sea bass, but I’m sure the bass won’t mind sharing it with the beans.

The result is Sesame Soy Glazed Green Beans.


The first step involves parcooking the beans — an easy step that’s useful for many green bean recipes, not just this one.

Just drop the beans in a pot of boiling water and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending upon how crunchy (less time) or tender (more time) you want your final beans to be. After the brief boil, shock the beans by dropping them into a bowl of ice water. 

Now, you may be asking yourself. Why didn’t Chef Gwen say “blanch the beans?”

True, blanching also means dropping food into a pot of boiling water but unlike parcooking,  blanching is a quick in-and-out step.

The point of blanching is to keep the bright color (especially for green vegetables), or loosen the skin for easy peeling (tomatoes, peaches) or soften the food, like a cabbage leaf destined for stuffing, for example.

With parcooking, we want to move the cooking a little further along than a quick blanch. With either technique — blanching or parcooking — shocking the food with ice water is key to stop the cooking.


After parcooking and shocking the beans for this recipe, the next step is slicing the beans at an angle to create bite size pieces with attractive points. In the picture above, you can see the knife is positioned on a whole bean at a severe angle. The more angled your knife, the pointier the ends will be. (Is pointier a word?) You get the point.

The next step is to make the soy glaze. It doesn’t take long so having all the ingredients measured beforehand is key. Get a small saucepan very hot and pour in the soy sauce. Boy, will it ever sizzle! Then quickly stir in some honey and rice wine vinegar, followed by a slurry.

A slurry is a fancy name for a starch (in this case cornstarch but it could also be arrowroot) and cold water. The slurry, when added to boiling liquid, will thicken the liquid quicker than you can pour a glass of wine.


Once the glaze is made (it takes less than 5 minutes) the next step is to briefly saute the beans with some flavor enhancers. I use peanut oil for Asian inspired sautes because I like the flavor. It also has a high smoking point, compared to say, olive oil, so it’s a good oil for serious frying, although we’re not using extreme heat in this dish.

Garlic, fresh grated ginger and red chile pepper flakes are the flavoring ingredients for this recipe. The brief saute only takes a couple minutes, and then the glaze is added and cooked just until it’s heated through.


Toss in some sliced red bell pepper for color just before the glaze is added. While the beans are sauteing, put a small skillet on another burner and toast some sesame seeds. You can buy sesame seeds already toasted, but it’s really easy and only takes a few minutes to toast them yourself.

Just put a dry skillet over medium-high heat and give the pan a shake every once in a while. You can tell they’re done when they turn a shade darker and start to smell nutty. Seriously, that’s it. Takes maybe 5 minutes.


It probably takes 30 minutes from start (parcooking) to finish (glazing), so that’s not too bad, is it?

And the flavor? Well, it’s a party for your mouth — a little spicy, a little salty, a little sweet and tangy, and richly flavored with soy. Fantastic.

I’d love to hear what you think about this recipe, and if you’ve got a greens or beans recipe, leave a link. So drop a comment, and then head over to the other Summer Fest blogs and do the same. You’ll be amazed, reading through the comments, at what other greens and beans treasures await you.

Soy Sesame Green Beans

Serves 6

1 pound green beans
2 teaspoons peanut (or vegetable oil)
1/2  to 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
1 cup sliced red bell pepper (about 1/2 of a large pepper)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds*
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch whisked together with 1 tablespoon cold water (slurry)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and set up a large bowl of ice water. Drop the beans into the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove beans with tongs or a slotted spoon and plunge into the ice water.

2. Remove the beans from the ice water after a few minutes, when the beans are cool. Pat dry. Slice the beans, at an angle, into 2-inch, bite-size pieces.

3. Make the glaze: Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes. Pour in soy sauce (it will sizzle furiously). Stir in honey and vinegar. Stir in slurry. The mixture should quickly thicken, probably in less than a minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and stir to coat with the oil. Stir in the garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Saute for another minute or two. Stir in the glaze, tossing to coat and cook just until heated through. Remove from heat.

5. Place the beans on a serving platter and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

* To toast sesame seeds, heat a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the sesame seeds. Shake the pan occassionally to prevent burning the seeds. The seeds are toasted when they turn a shade darker and smell nutty. It should take about 5 minutes, give or take.


Filed under Recipes, Tips & Tutorials

16 responses to “Sesame Soy Glazed Green Beans

  1. Nothing better than some stir fried green beans. I love when the beans pick up a little char from the contact with my wok. Remind me some time to tell you the story about my client and my wok.

  2. To me, that’s a perfect dish. Those flavors are some of my favorites and I can tell they go perfectly with green beans. Time in the kitchen is no object when something this delicious comes out!

  3. I adore green beans. I could make an entire meal of them. Love how you parboil and then stir fry them. I’ll add this one to my green bean repertoire.

    In case your readers are interested in using up all that zucchini (which DOES multiply when you aren’t looking), here’s a soup recipe.

    • Becky: Can’t wait. Bet you’ll have me falling out of my chair laughing about your wok escapade!

      Dana: Thank you. I think kitchen time is special, too.

      CC: I LOVE the way your soup recipe looks. Makes me want to pick up a spoon and dive in! Thanks for the link!

  4. Looks delicious! 30 minutes isn’t too bad at all, I might have to try this sometime soon…

  5. thecosmiccowgirl

    could’ve used this last night with the asian glazed chicken thighs i prepared! there’s always next time…thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.

    and now for something completely different:

  6. Danielle…you forgot to leave a link to your lovely post that ends with an easy spinach and egg dish…so here it is.

    Cosmic Cowgirl: Love your “stage name” and really love those roasted chickpeas! Thanks for dropping by.

  7. MAY I PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come over and have this?

    Ok, I’ll stop yelling. But you have no idea how delicious this looks and it’s right up my alley.

    I shall stop drooling now.

  8. Jaden: thanks for stopping by! Love your beef broccoli stir fry, too!

    Matt: Are you kidding me? You, the king of gorgeous food shots? Of course you can come over. Bring that herb cocktail from week 1, would ya?

  9. Teresa

    Great recipe, Gwen! You bring out the chef-wanna-be in me…………….now if I can only find someone to cook for!!!! The pics make me wanna be that much more……Thanks for sharing.

    Where will you take me next????

  10. Gwen – those look so good! Love stir-fried green beans! I’ll have to try your recipe.

    Here’s my post for this week:

  11. Brilliant dish. It’s all about keeping it (relatively) simple. The photo looks really tasty….and the food doesn’t look too bad either 😉

  12. Teresa: I ‘heart’ you! You always say the nicest things. Thank you for being a faithful reader.

    Kristina: LOVE your cornbread, peas and greens post. (Although, we always called cow peas ‘black-eyed’ peas). Either way, that plate makes me want to dive in to some real Southern food.

    Gavan: Thanks for stopping by. And love your sense of humor.

  13. Pingback: Heirloom Tomato Napoleon « Pen & Fork

  14. Pingback: Farmers Market Three Cucumber Salad « Pen & Fork

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