Fermented French Beans

French beans are such a joy to eat. Shorter and slightly more slender than the more common sitaw (yardlong beans) and habichuelas (Baguio beans), they have a satisfying crunch and a mild sweetness. 

They are also a very flexible, forgiving ingredient. You can eat them raw, stir-fried, steamed, simmered, sauteed, grilled, boiled or baked! French beans, like other green beans, generally prefer quick cooking methods to retain their crunch and bright green color. 

Many don’t know that French beans are also great fermented. Green beans are commonly pickled, but I prefer to use the fermentation method to get that sour tang. Using the right amount of salt also helps retain the crunch so that I don’t end up with mushy pods. (Get more tips on how to have a successful home ferment, here.) 

Pairing with local leeks

In this recipe, I am pairing the French beans with local onion leeks, which are more slender than leeks from US and Europe, and using seasoned rice porridge instead of simple brine to add more savoriness. This ferment has a strong onion-y punch, so if you don’t like that, feel free to replace the onion leeks with more French beans or add herbs like bay leaves/dahon ng laurel or dill. 

The resulting fermented French beans is a wonderful alternative to atchara and the fermented liquid can be used as a vinegar substitute, whether in dipping sauces and dressings. An ingenious friend even used it to add some heat and acidity to soup and some stir-fried vegetables!

Take note that the bright green color of raw French beans will turn olive green during fermentation. It’s also important to weigh the vegetables after trimming their ends. We don’t want to oversalt our veg!

  • 250 grams French beans (or Baguio beans)
  • 250 grams local onion leeks, root ends removed and white parts only
  • 2 tsp salt (non-iodized)
  • 1 cup basic porridge (glutinous rice flour technique), room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegan fish sauce
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 4 siling haba (green chili)
  • 1 pc red onion
  • 1-inch ginger

1. Cut the French beans and onion leeks into 2-inch pieces. Save the green parts for other recipes. 

2. In a bowl, add the green beans and onion leeks. Add the salt, mix everything, then set this aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. While waiting, make your fermentation paste. In another bowl, mix the basic porridge with the vegan fish sauce. Stir. 

4. Peel and rough chop the garlic, red onion, and ginger. Slice the siling haba.

5. Transfer the aromatics into a food processor and blitz everything to a paste. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle or blender, just make sure that there are no large pieces.  

6. Transfer the aromatic paste to the same bowl with the porridge and mix well. 

7. Rinse the French beans and leeks and shake off the excess water. Transfer to the same bowl with the seasoned porridge and mix well. Make sure the vegetables are well coated.

8. Transfer everything into a lidded jar. Use a wooden spoon or your clean fingers to press the vegetables down and let the porridge rise to keep everything submerged. 

9. Add your fermentation weight while keeping an inch of headroom before tightening the lid.

10. Let this ferment on the countertop for 3 to 5 days, releasing the gas at least once a day. Refrigerate your fermented French beans as soon as you like the level of sourness.  

You can add this fermented French beans and leeks and its brine to these light but filling savory Asian salads:

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