Cooking with ChiliCult: Soybeans (Maodou)

Soybeans are well-known… and often not highly regarded, as problematic health food, raw material for tofu, animal feed.

Their use as a sort of bean is much less well known. Unfortunately, for they are tasty – and such direct consumption might be quite a bit better than rainforest destruction for soybean plantations for fodder for animals for meat for hamburgers…

Interesting thing about this dish: It nicely illustrates the different names and uses of soybeans in the Chinese kitchen.

Here, the soybeans are used in their fresh, green state, when they are known as maodou, “hairy bean.” Later, they ripen and dry and turn yellow, and then they are not called maodou anymore but huangdou, “yellow beans.”

Recipe for ‘Fried’ Soybeans

(for 2 persons, as one of 2-3 dishes)

I don’t actually know if there is a distinct name for this dish; they aren’t exactly fried… In this family, we just simply say “I’ll make maodou” when this dish is meant…


1 small bowl of fresh green soybeans
1 handfull of fresh green (Chinese) chile pepper of middling pungency
a few cloves of garlic (to taste)

Oil, water, salt


Start ‘frying’ the soybeans in hot oil.
Peel and crush the garlic; finely chop the chile pepper (and the garlic, if you prefer it small).

After some 5 minutes (as the soybeans start to discolor, if they already start doing so at all) add the chile pepper and garlic and stir-fry.

After another 5 minutes or so (the food should start changing color, but just don’t burn anything – chile pepper and especially chile seeds are rather prone to burning when using high heat), add some water (around 1 cup). It should be enough that it doesn’t all immediately steam off, but not so much as to make a soup.

Let boil for a bit and salt to season the soybeans and finish cooking them. Note that the soybeeans will and should retain a bit of bite (think pasta al dente). – That’s the problem with using frozen soybeans; they turn rubbery and completely lose the al dente-like character, which really shouldn’t be.

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