Chinese Green Beans & Mushrooms

Updated: Jun 18, 2018

A Chinese culinary secret revealed: how to recreate restaurant flavors in your home kitchen.

Makes 4 cups


  • 2 cups shiitakes, cleaned and sliced (any mushroom will do or even a mixture of several)

  • 2 cups green beans, washed

  • 2-4 tbsp water for cooking and sautéing (optional: 2 tbsp oil)

  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

  • 1 cube fermented tofu (the secret ingredient)

  • Salt


  1. On a heated pan, and add water (or oil) and sauté mushrooms, making sure most mushrooms touch surface of pan to form a sear

  2. Add green beans and sauté in the same way until crisp. Cook for 2 minutes and then mix

  3. Add garlic and fermented tofu and cook for 2-3 minutes

  4. Add salt to taste


Note: Here’s a method for preparing the green beans to preserve the vibrant green while retaining the crunch. Boil water and add the green beans, cooking until al dente (tender yet firm). Then transfer them to a bowl of ice water until they’re ready for use.

Chinese Culinary Secrets

There’s something delectable about the vegetables in a Chinese restaurant, my favorite way to eat veggies. And I finally learned the secret. My sister-in-law, Nena, a Chinese-Vietnamese American, introduced me to fermented tofu. It’s an ingredient I had never heard of before meeting her. Fermented tofu, garlic and salt are the key ingredients that make Chinese vegetable dishes so addictive.

Some restaurants might add MSG, which heightens the flavor, but even without it these are amazing. Look for fermented tofu in your local Asian grocer (Amazon also carries them but charges far more).

Better Than a Michelin-Starred Restaurant

I made this dish for a friend who had recently undergone surgery. In those times when someone needs a boost to their health, I immediately reach for plant-based nutrition – in other words, plant medicine. The mushrooms in this recipe possess infection-fighting capabilities and the green beans, while providing a host of nutritional benefits like fiber and vitamins, are currently in season and add freshness to the dish.

One of my favorite restaurants in Orange County is Din Tai Fung, whose Hong Kong branch boasts a Michelin Star. When I visit the restaurant with family or friends, we often order their green bean dish, and it's always delicious. It’s what I envision when I make green beans at home.

But is my recipe better? Yes, and let me explain.

This recipe retains the flavor of the dish while amplifying its nutrition. The mushrooms in the recipe contain mitochondria-accessing power and possess the benefits of an amino acid called ergothioneine (mushrooms are one of the few foods to possess it). In his video, Dr. Michael Greger highlights some of their nutritional properties including the ability to protect our cells, our DNA, and even areas in our bodies prone to “oxidative stress – the lens of our eye, the liver, as well as really sensitive areas like bone marrow and semen.”

Protection Against Cancer

Mushrooms provide further benefits. First, ergothioneine is “heat-stable” – cooking mushrooms will not destroy the amino acid, therefore retaining their nutritional properties (Dr. Michael Greger, How Not To Die, pg. 326).

Also, mushrooms provide cancer-fighting advantages. Dr. Greger recounts a study (How Not To Die, pg. 197) that compares 1,000 women with breast cancer to 1,000 women without (all similar in age, weight, smoking and exercise habits). His conclusion: “The women whose mushroom consumption averaged just about one-half a mushroom or more per day had 64 percent lower odds of breast cancer compared with women who didn’t eat mushrooms at all. Eating mushrooms and sipping at least half a tea bag’s worth of green tea each day was associated with nearly 90 percent lower breast cancer odds.”

Mushrooms and green tea – cancer-fighting properties and a plethora of nutrients – these are simple and savory ways towards greater health. So for those at risk with a family history of breast cancer (like me) why not enjoy some green tea and mushrooms while reaping their nutritional benefits?

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