Chinese Long Beans
I mentioned that I used Chinese Long Beans in the taco pasta recipe. In Houston, I buy them in Asian markets, where you'll almost always find them. Specialty grocers may have them occassionaly, but I can't recall seeing them. And I think you'll never find them from a mainstream grocer.
The beans are indeed long. In the picture below, the beans are on a 13" wide cutting board. I put the stick of butter there as another frame of reference to their size.
Long beans, even when very fresh, have a few mottled dark spots. They are a little thinner in diameter than our typical green beans, and have a slightly chewier texture, even when well cooked. That's why I like them so much in the taco/pasta recipe - that crunch was a nice counterpoint to the soft(er) pasta.
Dry Fried Long Beans
In traditional Sichuanese cooking long beans are often dry-fried. This means they are cooked in a small amount of oil in a wok for 6-8 minutes until the skins get a little blackened and blistery. Since we usually can't generate the super high heats needed for good wok cooking, we have to carefully cook over high or medium high heat for about 10-12 minutes.
After frying the beans, they are set aside while ground pork, xiao xing rice wine (like sherry), soy sauce and ya cai (a pickled mustard green) are suateed, then finished with salt and sesame oil and recombined with the beans. Delicious.