Steamed Snake Beans with Chinese Anchovies

Steamed Snake Beans

Steamed Snake Beans with Chinese Anchovies

Traditionally known as the Oriental Yard Long Bean, this vegetable found commonly at the local wet market around Singapore is a well-loved vegetable by Chinese households. Actually, I am sure other households also love the vegetable, but I know I grew up eating these snake-like long Beans. And I love them.

Some folks refer to them as Snake Beans, which I kind of prefer as well. In Hokkien, we usually call it Cai Tau which literally mean Bean Vegetable.

I have always stir fried these legumes but decided that I would try steaming them instead. No special reason, just like the thought of steaming the snake beans into submission.


Snake Beans (the vegetable Uncle usually ties them into bunches with a rubber band, it makes it easier for him to calculate prices without having to weigh the stringy vegetables.)

Chinese Anchovies (the Malay word for these guys are ikan bilis otherwise known as mini anchovies. These are the mini-mini versions. Sun-dried and possibly full of its local sea flavour. Good to soak them in hot water before frying.)

Old Garlic (3 pieces of Garlic, minced, should be enough for flavour.)

Fish Sauce (I love fish sauce, but the ones that I love the best are the lighter ones from Vietnam. These fish sauces are simple and not complex and usually brings out the flavours of the vegetables. I have been using flavours a lot haven’t I? LOL)


1. Wash and cut snake beans into 3-4 cm lengths. But before that, you would have to strangle them into submission first. I don’t like my stringy vegetables twisting and turning all over the place. So after releasing them from the rubber band, it is important to douse them in cold water to make sure they are all ready.

2. Ready for what?! I hear you ask. Good question. Ready for the chopping board of course. Remember to cut them into equal lengths of 3-4 cm. Okay if you do that they wouldn’t be all that equal, but I know you know what I mean.

3. Soak the Chinese Anchovies in boiling hot water to extra the flavours of the tiny little fellas. 5 minutes would be more than sufficient.

4. Minced the garlic. I am using 3 pieces as I always believe the slave shouldn’t be the master. He wouldn’t know what to do as Master with a Slave mentality, and the dish would be overpowered with garlic and that’s not what we want.

5. Heat the wok, add 2-3 tablespoons of Olive Oil. Wait till the oil is heated, add the minced garlic to fry until lightly fragrant. Add the Chinese Anchovies and continue to stir fry. I like using the tilted wok technique as it helps to brown the garlic pieces rather evenly.

6. Dump the entire bunch of cut Snake Beans into the wok and add about 4 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Add a cup of water and steam those snake beans into submission. 5 minutes at high heat with the lid covering the wok. Usually the Snake Beans will turn into a dull green colour and would stick their tongues out with two crosses for eyeballs. That’s how I like them. Mushy and nice.

Best eaten with plain porridge.

Bon Appetit!