Szechuan Green Beans

Szechuan Green Beans

This recipe is adapted from Microwave Gourmet, one of the many superb cookbooks by Barbara Kafka.  At the time she wrote this book, the microwave was still primarily seen as an appliance for re-heating coffee or maybe steaming some carrots.  Instead she transformed the microwave into a kitchen powerhouse for making real food with real flavor.

A few years after I bought this book, my apartment had a ceiling water leak that not only damaged much of our kitchen but also took a toll on a small bookcase where I kept my cookbooks.  Covers were buckled and pages of recipes were stained and shrunk.  Painstakingly, I spent hours taking my damaged favorites apart; many were irreplaceable like my mother's Betty Crocker, with all her hand-written margin notes.  One of the other first books I tried to salvage was Microwave Gourmet, my first target being page 293 where this recipe appeared.

The genius of this recipe is how it duplicates the heat and flavor and texture of a dish that in a restaurant's hands can also be deep-fried and oily.  Instead this cooking method uses only 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for a pound of green beans.  And no frying.  These beans are irresistible served both hot and at room temperature.  They also travel well and make a perfect choice for a potluck dinner when you're responsible for a vegetable side dish.  

A note about microwaving:  this recipe works best in a regular or large microwave.  Smaller units will take about twice the cooking time.

In her introduction, Barbara Kafka refers to this recipe as "a triumph."   I agree.



  1. Place the garlic, ginger and scallions in the basket of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Remove to a 14" x 11" x 2" microwave-proof baking dish.
  2. Add the oil and pepper flakes. Toss a bit with a fork to combine. Cook, uncovered, at 100% power for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the dish from the oven. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stopping to stir everything 4 or 5 times. The beans will begin to shrivel the longer they cook.
  4. Remove from the oven. Stir and serve either hot or at room temperature.



ChineseGreen BeansBarbara Kafka

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