My family’s favorite restaurant is Panda Machi. It opened in Alpine, California – my hometown – years ago when I was in Middle School. We had dinner there nearly every week. Granted, there were only a few sit down restaurants in Alpine at the time, but Panda Machi was the favorite. And for good reason. When I moved back to San Diego for a couple of years in 2012, it once again became the ‘go to’ spot for family meals. Nearly everything I’ve tried on the menu is delicious, but the one dish we could never go without: popcorn green beans.
They lightly coat green beans in tempura batter, deep fry them to crisp golden perfection, season them with lots of coarse salt, and serve topped with a garlic and shallot concoction that’s so good I want to lick the bowl (but instead add rice to more appropriately get the last of the garlicky goodness).
The recipe below produces a tender green bean with a coating that’s slightly thicker than your average tempura (which makes for better sauce delivery), but has the same delicate crispiness. And it comes pretty gosh darn close to what you’d find if you sat down for dinner at Panda Machi. It’s heaven when topped with the garlic and shallot recipe that follows, but can also be served alongside cheese dips, tempura sauce, or an aioli. Here I’ve also topped with freshly chopped shiso leaves and my all time favorite spice mixture, togarashi shichimi.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbs. corn starch
1 cup beer
1 egg white
1 lbs. green beans, edges trimmed
frying oil (peanut is always your best bet)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Submerge green beans in an ice bath for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a towel and pat until completely dry.
Whisk together beer and egg white in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk together flour, corn starch, salt and pepper. Gradually add dry mixture to wet and continue to whisk until lump free. Set batter aside.
Add 3″ oil to a large dutch oven and place over medium heat. Use a candy thermometer to monitor temperature – the goal is 375°F for optimal crispiness.
Add green beans to batter; carefully place coated green beans into frying oil and adjust heat to maintain 375°F . Work in batches to prevent overcrowding; too many green beans added at once will cause them to stick together and the temperature to drop.
The green beans will be gold brown and crisp when ready. Use a slotted soon to transfer to paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve immediately.
Garlic and Shallot Topping
Heat 2 tbs. butter or oil in a small pan. Add 3 tbs. finely chopped shallot, 3 cloves finely chopped garlic, and 1 tsp. grated ginger. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until rich deep brown in color – about 12 minutes. Optional: add 1 tsp. miso and 1 tsp. water; continue to cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.