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[Photograph: Diana Kuan]

There's something magical about the way green beans puff and wrinkle in shimmering oil. In my opinion, there's no better way to prepare the humble string bean. Diana Kuan's dry-fried green beans in The Chinese Takeout Cookbook are less embellished than versions seen at Chinese restaurants; she keeps things simple by skipping the ground pork and preserved vegetable that are often included. Instead, the beans are bolstered by minced and browned fresh shiitakes and the requisite Sichuan pepper, chili bean sauce, and dried red chiles. These changes not only make the dish easier to prepare with grocery staples, but they also give the beans themselves a greater chance to shine.

Why I picked this recipe: Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans are one of my favorite vegetable preparations on the Chinese takeout menu.

What worked: I would be lying if I didn't say that I ate almost all of this dish in one sitting.

What didn't: I would have liked more spice in the beans. I ended up drizzling some chili oil on mine before serving, but next time, I'll just up the chili bean sauce.

Suggested tweaks: You could, of course, add a bit of ground pork (or preserved vegetable, if you can find it) back into the dish. Add the pork to the wok with the chiles and peppercorns and stir-fry briefly before adding the mushrooms.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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