Yin Yang Beans

The ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang is a concept used to describe how  opposite forces are in actuality complimentary to each other. It is believed that everything has both yin and yang aspects and it is important for these forces to be balanced. It has been mentioned that the first references to yin and yang came from “I Ching”, the five classic works compiled and edited by Confucius.

This philosophy is based on the Taoist belief that food plays an important role in Chinese culture specifically Chinese cuisine and medicine. It is suggested that a person’s health can be improved with diet changes in order to restore a healthy balance between the yin and yang in the body.

Yang foods are said to be warming, drying and invigorating to the body and yin foods are cooling, damp and soothing. Yang foods include lamb, chicken, salmon,  and ginger. Yin foods are many vegetables (including green beans) fruit, crabs, clams and lettuce. Neutral foods are eggs and white rice.

Most food we eat can  be designated as being predominantly yin, predominantly yang or a balance between the two. In this recipe two ingredients are yin; green beans and scallions. Some yang ingredients are ginger, garlic and ground pork. I also served these green beans with salmon which is very yang and a side of rice which is a neutral food.

Cooking methods such as stir-frying are considered yang and blanching is classified as yin. So in my green been recipe I have used two cooking methods as I blanched the beans first and then stir-fried them. This enables a cook to create a harmonious state of well-being by using such ingredients  as green beans with ginger or chicken with mangoes. What it comes down to is a “balanced diet”.

The symbol for yin yang is called the Taijitu.

Related image

Yin Yang Beans, Adapted

  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. haricots verts green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half if they are long (I like to leave the tails on)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. ground pork (about 1 ounce) – or more if desired (bacon would be a good substitute)
  • 1 tbsp. pickled ginger, minced (see comment below)
  • 1/4 cup snipped scallion pieces (green part)

In a saucepan bring 1/2 tsp. of the salt and the water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for a minute or two until they are bright green and the water almost returns to a boil. Drain well in a colander. Then I like to dry between two pieces of scott towels to thoroughly dry the beans. If there is any water on the beans they will braise versus stir-fry.

In a small bowl combine the soy sauce and rice wine; set aside.

Heat your wok until on high; swirl in the oil. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir-fry until the aromatics are fragrant; add the pork. Stir-fry about 1 minute or until the pork is no longer pink. Add the beans, pickled ginger and scallions. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Add the soy sauce/rice wine mixture and stir-fry another minute or until the pork is cooked through and the beans are crisp-tender.

Comment: Pickled ginger comes in different forms. The author suggests buying the one with the least preservatives and I totally agree. If you don’t have access to a Chinese/Japanese store you will probably only find the “sushi” kind of pickled ginger. Chinese groceries carry this light pink pickled ginger and a deep pink variety that is available in shreds. A red dye has been added to reach that color. See pictures below.

Recipe by Cooking with Aunt Juju

This is another great recipe by cookbook author Grace Young which I have slightly adapted.

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27 thoughts on “Yin Yang Beans

    • Thank ya Julie – I’m glad you learned something new just like I did when I researched this recipe. These pencil thin beans are my favorite and I always find room in my small raised beds to grow them every year. Crispy and flavorful!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kathryn – I love green beans which is evident from the many posts I have using them. I heard about yin yang before but it was fun to research it. Of course it means a lot more than just a balance with food, it’s your life too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A great insightful post Judi. Just learned something new from it. Love those beans and all the Asian flavors incorporated, and that ground pork sounds like it went very well with the entire dish. I do have one question though, what is that patty in the picture with some sour cream or something on top? Yummm. The entire meal looks very comforting and satisfying.

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    • Thanks so much Loretta – I’ve been into Chinese cuisine since a sister and niece were there. My niece actually taught English… Those are my Spicy Salmon Cakes and I also have two Weight Watcher’s recipes Salmon Cakes Two Ways. As I don’t always don’t get to the market for fresh salmon I make these cakes and freeze them so I always have salmon on hand. The topping is a low-fat mayo with Sriracha- just something I put together for the pictures.

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  2. Judi, I read about yin and yang with great interest. My husband and I visited Seattle last fall and when we visited the Chinese scholar’s home, the tour guide explained the yin and yang regarding the architecture of the building and the beautiful gardens.
    You have explained so well how yin and yang relates to food. It also reminds me of ayurveda.
    The recipe is mouthwatering! I love pickled ginger and have seen the Japanese one. I do have a couple of Chinese grocery stores close by so will look for the Chinese one.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe,

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    • Thanks so much for your comment. I was fascinated with how yin yang is in every aspect of our lives and environment and the way it does relate to food. Balance is the key 🙂 I found two pickled gingers; both taste the same and they do come julienned as well as thin slices. The dark ginger is from a red dye…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Judi. I am going to look for the ginger as soon as this snow storm moves to the ocean 😉 I cannot wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Nice recipe, easy and delicious!
    We definitely agree, nourishment and nutrition are not the same thing! In fact we wrote an article about Chinese food too 🙂 Check it out! http://wp.me/p8HXdM-1s
    And keep track of our ‘Nice to taste you’ updates about food cultures 🙂

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