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Source: Adapted and modified from Harumi’s Japanese cooking (another version of this recipe can be found at Everyday Harumi)
180g fine French beans (equivalent to one pre-packed beans)
30g black sesame seeds (plus 1 tsp white sesame seeds) – toasted
4 tsp superfine sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee premium light soy sauce)
1 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine) – refer to photo
1 tsp shallot oil
- Trim the beans, wash and rinse. Cut diagonally into half.
- Bring a pot of well salted water (enough to cover the beans) to a boil. Blanch the beans for a few minutes until they are cooked yet still crisp (at this point, the beans will look greener). Remove them quickly from the boiling water, drain and plunge them into an ice bath for a few minutes. This act is called “shocking” – immersing the beans into the iced water will halt the cooking completely, bring out the sweetness and set the green colour of the vegetables. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.
- In a Japanese mortar (suribachi), lightly grind the toasted sesame seeds. Add sugar, light soy sauce, mirin and shallot oil and mix to a smooth paste. (refer to note 3 and photo (c) and (d))
- Add the beans into the mortar and toss until they are well coated with the paste. Best to use hands for better results.
- Adjust the seasonings if necessary.
- How to toast sesame seeds – Dry fry both types of seeds in a frying pan over a medium low heat until they are fragrant and the white sesame seeds look light brown. Adding white sesame seeds will help you to judge judge the stage of the toasted sesame seeds better as it’s impossible to do so with black sesame seeds and avoid having burnt seeds. Once it’s done, remove from the pan. Set aside. To save time, you can double the amount, toast them in advance and keep in an air-tight container.
- You can substitute green beans. Just cut them in half lengthwise and then into half again.
- If you do not have a Japanese mortar & pestle (suribachi and surikogi as per photo (c) and (d)), you can make the paste with a food processor. Be careful not to over blend it. Another option (aka my cheater method) is to toast and grind the seeds first (as per photo b). Make more and store them in an air tight container. On the day of making the paste, in a small rice bowl use a dessert spoon to combine the ground sesame seeds, sugar, light soy sauce, mirin until well mix. Press the seeds lightly with the back of the spoon to ensure that the seasonings have been fully absorbed by the seeds.
- You can make the dressing in advance and store them in the refrigerator ready for use.
- If you cannot find sesame seeds or paste, you can use peanut butter or Tahiti as a substitute.