how to make sour pickled beans

sour string beans

Out of all the different tastes, the sensation of sourness of a lemon, the gentle tang of tamarind pulp and the sharpness of plums skins is what delights me most.

When my mother mentions sour pickled beans that her sister made regularly in Rangoon, I am immediately curious. I cannot remember the taste but I bet I could if I eat some.

So off to Paddy’s market this morning to find snake beans that are as long as your arm. The ratio of beans to salt is unknown so it will be a little experiment I shall start this afternoon. I follow my mother’s instructions: cut the string beans about 2-3 cm in length at a slight diagonal, more pleasing to the eye.

There is just over 330g of beans which I pile into a small glass jar. Once it is full I empty the beans into a bowl. A few small handfuls of salt are rubbed all over the beans quite firmly so they are a little bruised. After I am satisfied that there is reasonable amount of salt, about 30g in total, the beans are returned to the jar.

I am a stickler for carrying out instructions and in particular following traditional methods as used in Burma. So I pop a few banana leaves that have been cut into small lengths into simmer water to make them pliable. If you have handled fresh banana leaves you will know they tend to split otherwise.
sour string beans with banana leaf lid
With care I place two or three leaves over the glass jar as my lid. It is secured in place with thick rubber bands. I think the reason for using banana leaf is to allow the fermentation gases to escape.

Next it is important to keep the jar airtight so that mould or other bacteria will not grow in the area where there is contact with air. For this my mother says my aunt used to fill a container with water and the jar with banana-leaf-lid is placed upside down in the water.

Now it is a a matter of waiting. I shall check the beans in 3 or 4 days time to see how they have progressed. In the meantime I ponder all the dishes I can cook with the sour beans.

Update: My mother points out I forgot to stuff the jar with a few banana leaves to make sure the beans are packed tightly.

Creative Commons License

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


  1. Diane on July 22, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Hi! I am growing snake beans here in Kentucky, and was looking up recipes for pickling them. I was wondering how this one turned out for you. Are they good?

    Perhaps I can use grape leaves in lieu of banana leaves….


    • Cho on July 23, 2009 at 6:51 am

      Hi Diane

      I do like the pickled beans as they have a slightly sour taste. I think grape leaves would work well too. Let me know how it turns out.

      Best wishes,

  2. […] home-made sour pickled beans 2 tablespoons oil ½ onion, sliced lengthways 2 dried red chillies, soaked and […]