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Dec 7, 2005 10:56 PM

"Four Seasons Beans"; @ Jook N Fun, SF

  • m

No sooner had I posted an assurance that Jook n Fun's menus were all in English than things change! On Monday, I had lunch there with my parents. This place is fast becoming their favorite spot in SF. New this time were two tablets posted on the wall with about 7 dishes each written in Chinese. They were at a bad angle for my father to read, so I asked our waiter to let us know what they were. He was happy to read them off, but then the seniors couldn't hear him clearly. I ended up asking which of the special dishes he liked the most and went with that not knowing what it might be.

The dish turned out to be dry sauteed Chinese long beans in a soulful combination with bits of fatty pork, salty preserved vegetable, and briny dried shrimp. The aroma was fantastic intense greenness mingled with pork fat meatiness, fermented pungency and salted seafood. Perhaps an acquired taste, but we loved it. The kitchen did a great job with this stir-fry, getting the high heat sear on the beans to crinkle them and seal in the flavor, as well as cooking them to the perfect toothsomeness and releasing the breath of the wok. The long beans themselves were excellent quality with an ultra-fresh taste and not dried out or rubbery. Intensely flavored and very salty, this dish would probably be better enjoyed with plain rice than the noodles we'd ordered.

I was trying to figure out which of the sets of characters listed on the board this might be when the bill arrived. The cash register tab listed the dish in English as "Four Seasons Beans" for $5.25. So perhaps one can order it by that name. Highly recommended.



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  1. Hello, thanks for the eloquent report. You're very generous to share part of your family, and your posts about them evoke vivid memories for me of my parents.(my mother's--she was the 'hound' in the family--people are Wongs, from Zhongshan county) You use the expression "breath of the wok" in a context that could mean a literal dimension to the phrase, the five elements interplaying and transmuting the ingredients. I met a gentleman who explained the phrase ("wok haay" I think he said) as something like bringing out the true essence of the food. Is it neither or all of these things, or an untranslateable expression? Regards.

    2 Replies
    1. re: moto

      You pretty much nailed the explanation yourself :-).

      Though I rarely hear that expression being used in Hong Kong/HK food TV programs these days, as having good wok breath is standard in the picky hearts of hounds there. The new word to use is "yeh mei" which appears to mean "attraction or spreading of flavor" (spreading as in spreading germs (verb)) though I can't explain it well.

      1. re: KK

        Really didn't think about what yeh mei means. Now to think about it, I think it may connote attraction of flavor to the mouth/taste buds. So if a dish is yeh mei, then it is intense with flavor and attracts taste to the taste buds.

    2. This bean dish is one of my favorite at J & F. The black pieces are preserved olives, similar to preserved black beans. The reference to four season beans is the style of cooking, which refers to a light deep frying and then saute with condiments. This dish is a take on a common Northern Chinese dish ususally called dried saute four season beans, or some similar name. In English, I think they're just dried saute beans. Order a plain bowl of jook sometimes and eat the tiny bits of condiments with the jook...yum!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Margret
        Melanie Wong

        Thank you for clarifying that those were olives. Yes, they had a fermented, salty character like black beans. At first I thought I heard the waiter say "hom choi", but then it sounded more like "lam choi", would that be the olives? This dish would be wonderful with white jook. Actually, I've had a Thai Chinese dish that I like very much that way.

        Are the other specials on the board more along the lines of dishes you'd share with others at dinner rather than one-dish meals?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Yes the correct pronounciation is lam choi, with lam pronounced more like laahm (meaning olive).

          Not easy to find this dish nailed down well. It was a favorite of mine back in the heyday and great versions could only be found in certain chiu chow restaurants in HK.

          Thanks for the report. Sounds like a destination spot next time my dental appointment comes up in the Sunset :-).

          1. re: KK

            Gosh, and that's one word that I do know! Somehow "olive" was out of context for me and I didn't put it together.

            Does "seasons" refer to the seasoning or flavors of the condiments or to the seasons of the year?

          2. re: Melanie Wong

            IIRC most of the dishes on the wall are along the lines of dishes to be shared but I'll check again the next time I'm there and post.

            The preserved olives are called Laam See (translates as olives(laam) preserved in soy sauce, similar to Daow See, which is bean preserved in soy sauce). Lam Choi tastes similar but are vegetables, which was not what they used in this bean dish. You can get laam choi in glass jars in stores. I don't know which vegetable is used for lam choi but it was first served to me when I visited Joong San in China along with white jook. Served as a condiment and are in slivers in a black liquid. Wonderful stuff. Laam See can be purchased in bulk or in small plastic packages at stores. They can be used in most recipes which call for salted black beans.


            1. re: Margret

              HAAA!! I didn't mean that I went to China with white jook!! You guys know what I meant!


          3. re: Margret

            Four season beans is straight translation of string beans in Mandarin (Taiwan). If you go to 99 ranch market they're often referrer to Si Ji Dou or four season beans.

            Though it is a very interesting way of cooking string beans with dried olives.

          4. "Four seasons" is how the Chinese name for braised green beans begins. At least at the Shanghai Dumpling King on Balboa, where we ate last night. Fantastic meal -- they are now serving "Go-Bu-Li", the dumplings from northern China, after which the great little Chinese restaurant in San Pablo is named.

            1. And that great little Chinese restaurant in San Pablo (which has lost a lot of its charm by Americanizing its menu and abandoning many wonderful northern dishes IMHO) got its name from the original bao-zi store in Tianjin. You can read more about the origin of gou bu li at:


              1 Reply
              1. re: nestorius

                Thanks for the downhill alert on Go Bu Li. I've not been out in San Pablo in over a year, and seeing Go Bu Li at the Shanghai Dumpling King the other night made me think of that place. I last went there over a year ago, and at that time they only made these on Monday. Finally discovered San Tong on Irving tonight, so they will be getting my attention for the time being. Curious "black bean gravy" but all the dumplings looked to die for.