One of my favorite ways to stir-fry vegetables is to flavor them with Chinese sausage (lap cheung in Cantonese; lạp xưởng in Vietnamese). The dry, sweet sausage isn’t sold at regular supermarkets so I conjure up its flavors with smoky bacon, five-spice powder, and maple syrup.
Parboiling the green beans and then searing them in bacon fat ensures that they’re cooked and full of deep savors. (The conventional Chinese method is to shallow fry them, but even I rarely want to heat up a wok filled with oil for that purpose.) If your stove has a booster burner for high heat, use it for this recipe.
1 pound green beans, stem ends trimmed
Fine sea salt
⅛ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons maple syrup, or 1 teaspoon honey plus 1 teaspoon water
1½ teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon apple cider or distilled white vinegar
2 thick-cut slices smoked bacon, or three thin-cut slices smoked bacon, cut crosswise into ¼- to ⅓-inch-wide strips
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Line a baking sheet with a clean dish towel or a double layer of paper towels.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook for 1 to 1½ minutes (there’s no need to return to a boil), until they are a brilliant green and still crisp and snappy. Drain in a colander, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread out to dry, finish cooking in their residual heat, and cool, about ten minutes or more.
In a small bowl, stir together the five-spice powder, maple syrup, fish sauce, soy sauce, and vinegar. Set the seasoning liquid near the stove.
In a large skillet that holds heat well (such as cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel) over medium heat, cook the bacon. When the bacon is crisp and browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a plate. Leave about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the skillet.
Rewarm the pan over high heat. When it is just shy of smoking, add half of the green beans, spreading them out to fry and sear for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and blistered here and there; some dark brown patches are okay too. Transfer to the plate with the bacon and repeat with the remaining green beans.
Return the first batch of green beans and the bacon to the skillet, dump in the garlic, and cook, stirring, until hot, 30 to 60 seconds. Splash in the seasoning liquid and cook for about 30 seconds, until the liquid has evaporated.