It has been a scorcher here in southern BC for the past few weeks and with a west-facing apartment, temperatures inside our cozy home have easily reached 100 degrees in the evening. Rather than avoiding turning on my stove and sticking to no-cook recipes like salads and sandwiches, I fired up the stove to make a hot dinner; hot in the sense that heat was used to cook the food, and hot in the sense of spice.
I was drawn to make some spicy food during this heat wave to test the theory that eating spicy food when it’s hot outside actually helps to cool you down. I never really tested this theory before as I have lived in a cool Canadian climate my whole life (or have had air conditioning to compensate those few hot days we get up here); but I heard that this theory actually works and has worked for people who live in perpetually hot climates for hundreds of years. So since we were stuck in this heatwave and sans air conditioning, I was basically willing to try anything to help cool off!
I have tons of spicy ingredients in my fridge and pantry that could impart different levels and layers of spice to my recipes, but for this recipe in particular, I opted to go for a spicy Indonesian chili sauce called Sambal Oelek. Unlike most hot sauces out there, sambal oelek is made with crushed, whole chiles (seeds and all) and less vinegar than traditional hot sauces, so that you can actually taste the chiles. I also like this sauce because it is chunky and not completely smooth so that you get different hits of spiciness in each bite.
To carry this delicious spicy sauce, paired it with some lean ground pork (along with shallot and garlic for extra flavour) and some beautiful green and purple beans that we got from my boyfriend’s parents garden. And thus my homemade take on a popular Asian green bean recipe was born!
I absolutely love eating green beans in the summer when they are in season… they are so flavourful and you can get tons of different varieties. While I really adored this deep purple colour of these beans, they actually turn green once they have been cooked. Heartbreaking I know, but hey, at least they still taste delicious!
When cooking fresh green beans, you want to make sure that you do not to overcook them. Ideally, cooked green beans should still have a bit of a bite or a snap to them and are deep green in colour…. not limpy and dark green. My trick to cooking the perfect green bean and making it crispy and full of texture is to add the trimmed beans to a very hot frying pan along with a splash of water and then cover to steam it for a few minutes. Once the beans have partially cooked from this steaming method, I add oil to the frying pan and fry the heck out of them until all sides of the beans get charred. The high heat blisters the skins fast and keeps the inside nice and crisp. This is exactly what you want for this recipe to compliment the softer ground pork.
To enhance the flavours in this recipe, I added in some finely diced shallot and lots of garlic to really add an extra kick. If you don’t have shallots, you can substitute them with a finely diced yellow onion. The flavour is a little bolder but it still totally works in this recipe! I also add a splash of soy sauce (low sodium) for that umami taste!
So…from testing out this recipe, I can now confirm that eating spicy foods when it’s hot outside does in fact cool you down. I definitely worked up a sweat eating this chile-filled recipe and I loved it!
If you are looking to beat the heat this summer, try making this recipe for Pork & Sambal Green Beans!
Let me know in the comments below what recipes you like to make in the summer to cool down!
For the full recipe for my Pork & Sambal Green Beans, click here!