Fresh fava beans are on everyone's dinner table in Yunnan and other southern provinces in China from January to March, but they are seldom used for cooking in northern China. A few years ago I found them at a farmers' market in Santa Monica, California, only slightly longer than the ones back home in Yunnan.
Now I occasionally find them at the Chinese supermarket in the US or at specialty grocery stores. Few shoppers pick them up because few people know what to do with them. That said, they are common in middle eastern cooking. Here is Uncle Yang's simple recipe.
1 kilogram fresh fava beans, in pods
2 cups glutinous rice flour
2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup hot water
Peel off the outer green jackets and inner shells of the fava beans; separate each bean into two halves and place in a bowl.
Add glutinous rice flour, water and salt (to taste) to the bowl; knead for a few minutes until mixture becomes doughy. Cut into fist-sized chunks, shape into balls; place on a cutting board and cut the dough into slices. Sprinkle some dried rice flour over them and lay them out on a plate. This will prevent them from sticking together.
Add oil to a frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add rice-bean pieces to pan (as many pieces as fit comfortably in one layer), fry until golden and bubbling around the edges. Turn each piece and fry the other side until golden.
Remove from heat, place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cover tops with paper towels to remove excess oil. Repeat frying process with remaining pieces. Serve while hot. This dish does not taste good when cold, as the glutinous rice cakes harden as they cool.
Serves four to six. Enjoy!
This recipe is taken from author Zhang Mei's autobiographical travelogue and cookbook Travels through Dali with a leg of ham. It is republished here with permission granted by Penguin Books and photos courtesy of Elizabeth Phung. More of the book can be found at the official website.