One of my favourite activities on a ferociously hot summer’s day, the kind when it feels like the wind is blowing straight from a hairdryer, is to wander down Victoria Street in the Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford.
A short tram ride from the CBD, this long and busy stretch of road is home to some of the best Asian restaurants and supermarkets in the city. Between the Hot Bread bakeries, dodgy DVD shops, and travel agencies with faded 90s posters covering their windows and permanently closed doors, are groceries brimming with fresh turmeric, knobbly green bitter melons and boxes full of overripe bananas. There’s a faint smell of durian in the air as you pass through the colourful plastic door strips. The shelves are filled with jars of shrimp pastes, tamarind and every variety of noodle, rice, mushroom and dried berry you can think of.
It was in one of these shops that I stumbled upon snake beans. Common to south-east Asian cuisine they are often called yard beans, and are a delicious, nutty alternative to the more widely available European green bean. They are pretty cheap and go brilliantly in salads and stir-fries – one word of warning, though, don’t boil them. They clog with water and turn to a fat slimy mush which is anything but appetising.
This particular recipe is light, fresh and super easy to prepare. And as with most leftovers recipes, use any vegetables that you have in your fridge.
See this dish as part of a MEAL PLAN
Prep time: 15 minutes
Oil for frying
250g white fish
1 stalk lemongrass
10 coriander stalks
1 bunch snake beans – about 10 beans (substitute for green beans)
2 cups beans sprouts
1 small Lebanese cucumber
3 spring onions
1 long green chili
1 clove garlic
1cm piece ginger
1 tsp fish sauce
1 handful coriander
1 handful mint
In a large bowl mix together the cucumber (halved and sliced), the roughly chopped spring onions, mint and coriander, and the beans sprouts.
Top and tail the snake beans and cut each one into roughly thirds and finely chop the ginger, garlic and chili. Meanwhile, heat a tbsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Fry the snake beans for 2-3 minutes before adding in the garlic, ginger and chili and frying for a further 2 minutes. To finish add a pinch of salt and the fish sauce before combining with the other salad ingredients.
Next, in a food processor whizz together the filleted white fish – make sure there are no bones – coriander stalks, lemongrass and salt. Whizz the mixture for a good 3-4 minutes so the fish goes into a sticky paste. Form into 6 round balls and poach in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. If you don’t have a food processor chop the fish finely with two sharp knives for a good 10-15 minutes until it resembles a smooth, sticky paste.
To cook the fish balls, take a pot of rolling boiling water and poach for 3 minutes. Cut into quarters, mix through the salad, and serve immediately.
Fried crispy shallots
Black sesame seeds
Blanched buckwheat noodles splashed with soy sauce and sesame oil