human beings are naturally creatures of habit. From the number of times we snooze our alarm clocks, to the order in which we put on our shoes, we gravitate towards the familiar and reliable. For me, this is often the case when it comes to how I order at restaurants. 

When perusing a menu, I tend to focus in on the entrée I'm craving, with less emphasis on sides. After myriad visits to local Chinese and Sichuan eateries (of which Houston has a lot of good ones), I’ve noticed a trend, a habit, hiding in the shadows: my unrelenting attraction to dry-fried green beans (or gan bian si ji dou).

Scrolling through the countless images of food in my camera roll, I see plates of noodles, tofu, chicken, and rice, but waiting in the wings is always a version of these delectably crunchy, savory beans. The dish has become a comfort, the perfect addition to any meal, whether the green beans lean garlicky, porky, or spicy. In every picture I come across, the dish plays second fiddle, when in reality it has become the star on many of my favorite menus. Here are four of my favorites:

Pepper Twins: Dry-Fried Green Beans

Perfectly wok-fried until wrinkly and wonderful. Pictured here to the side of the frame. I know, I’m a monster.

Mala Sichuan Bistro: Dry Fried Double Veggies 

Mala Sichuan Bistro’s Bellaire location boasts a double whammy of delicious, with both green beans and bamboo shoots, enhanced with a ground pork mixture and preserved vegetables.

Spicy Girl: Stir Fried Green Bean

Hidden behind the (also delicious) three pepper chicken. I devoured these green beans so quickly that I didn’t even snap a picture of the entire plate.

Mein: String Bean Olive Leaves

Mein, a Cantonese fusion favorite, serves up its rendition with onion and preserved olive leaves. This time, the beans make an appearance in the center of the frame.