Bora: An Ode to the Long Green Bean

Growing bora has been one of the many highlights of this summer’s gardening adventure. It’s deeply satisfying to grow something so definitively Guyanese hundreds of miles away from home and to prepare a meal with it that your family can’t get enough of. This is bliss.

In this post I give you three ways to prepare bora that are foundational to enjoying this bean all year long.

My Beauties

Interestingly enough, I did not grow bora in Guyana so the growing process has been a wonderful journey of discovery. However, as a child of about 10 years old in Guyana, I had the important job of shopping for fruit and vegetables in the market. It was even before that – accompanying my mom or aunts to the market that I learned how to choose the finest, freshest bora. I will share my mom’s tips for buying bora with you.

Bora is known in Asian communities and is called “long bean“, “Chinese long bean” and “yard long bean“, I am told.

Growing Bora

I’m giving so much love to this vine that I’ve gotta guiltily praise and pet my other plants. Every morning when I go to water my plants and harvest my produce, hanging out with my bora makes me indescribably happy. Growing an up to 21 inch bean from a 3 inch seedling is very rewarding. And it is thriving with lots of baby bora springing up everyday.

Bora thrives in hot weather with lots of water. The vine needs a trellis of some sort to climb on and it climbs and climbs. It produces a beautiful blossom with a delicate lilac color that I have only seen in full bloom early in the mornings. After a rain shower or thunderstorm, there is a lot of new growth. For some reason ants love the bora vine but seem to cause no harm and as more and more blossoms appear, the European paper wasp has been just hanging out at the blossoms and at the base of the bean.

Cooking Bora

Everyone in my family LOVES bora and it goes well with many kinds of meat and seafood. How I prepare bora depends on the meat or seafood with which it is prepared. Growing up in Guyana, my family cooked a lot of dishes that followed this formula: a vegetable cooked with a meat in the same pot, and served with rice or roti. Fried ripe plantains often accompany bora with rice as you can see in one of my pictures above. Some Guyanese even add curry powder to the accompanying meat when cooking bora.

Bora is a staple vegetable in Guyana. My mom, grandma and aunts cooked bora with “fine shrimps” (these really tiny shrimp); bora with prawns, bora with fried fish, chicken, beef, ‘mince’ (ground beef) and pork. I have cooked bora with prawns, ground beef, ground lamb and a combination of ground beef and italian sweet and hot sausage.

In addition, bora is a favorite addition to fried rice and chowmein with its delicious raw or lightly steamed flavor and delicate crunch.

In this blog post I will share with you two ways of cooking bora: with jumbo shrimp and with ground beef/ground lamb. The main difference is that shrimp cook really quickly so the bora is cooked first and the shrimp is added in the last 5 minutes of cooking. With meat, the meat is cooked first and the bora and other ingredients are added after the meat is well cooked.

Bora Basics: Buying and Storing

  • Where to Buy: Bora can be bought at West Indian markets and in Chinatown. A friend also sent me a photo of bora at a farmers market in Philadelphia and one of my Vietnamese friends told me that she was used to the bean from back home. I am sure that when my friends and subscribers try this bean you will all be hooked like we are in my family.
Bora at Farmers Market
Bora at Farmers Market.
  • Choosing and Storing: If I am buying bora (not growing it), I make sure to check that the beans are dark green with no brown splotches and no yellowing. I also try to cook it within a day or two as it does not keep well even when refrigerated. The beans in the picture above are a bit more coarse than the ideal bora for my mother and me. In my eyes the beans above look like they remained on the vine a bit too long.

Bora Basics: Preparing

  • Wash the bora thoroughly and remove the tops and tails.
  • STEWS: Cut the bora up into 1cm pieces. Set aside.
  • CHOWMEIN AND FRIED RICE: This is best done with very fine, dark green bora, cut into pieces that are about 1/3 of a centimeter in length. Set aside.
When preparing stews cut bora into 1cm pieces. When my son got to this meal it ended up being only enough for two people 🙂

Bora Basics: What to Have on Hand for Any Bora Recipe

  • Herbs: Herb Blend or onions and garlic
  • Coconut milk
  • Tomatoes or tomato paste or even ketchup in a pinch
  • Bell peppers: red for a more colorful dish)
Bora with homegrown tomatoes and red bell peppers

Bora Recipes: Vegan/Vegetarian

I owe thanks to my dear friend Amy who appears in this blog post wearing the “bora earrings”, for unknowingly nudging me towards this vegetarian recipe. Amy is a vegetarian and really wanted to try bora so I gathered a week’s worth of harvest and tried out this recipe. It was a hit. The flavor of bora is delicate and unique. The herbs, tomatoes and coconut milk are the supporting cast that give the bora a stage on which to shine.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 bundle of bora (about 20-24 beans)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herb Blend
  • 1/2 large onion coarsely chopped
  • 1 large tomato or 2 medium tomatoes diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper diced
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • Water as needed

METHOD
  1. Prepare the bora as described above in the video and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.
  3. When the oil just begins to smoke, put 1 tbsp Herb Blend and stir to coat. Sautèe the herbs until they are fragrant and just translucent.
  4. Add the bora, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and remaining Herb Blend and stir to mix well. Add freshly ground black pepper and seasoning salt/salt to taste. Mix well. Lower the flame and cover the pot for 5-7 minutes or so.
  5. The green color of the bora will begin to brighten as it cooks. Add coconut milk, stir to mix well, cover and cook.
  6. Check occasionally for flavor and texture.
    • The unique flavor of the bora should begin to infuse the gravy.
    • DO NOT OVERCOOK THE BORA. It should not brown too much but retain a green color and a subtle crunch.
  7. Add a little water if needed for more gravy and taste, adding salt and pepper to your taste. It should not be dry.
  8. When you have the perfect flavor, turn off the flame and serve hot with steaming jasmine rice.

Bora Recipes: Shrimp

Use the ingredients and method above then follow the steps below:
  1. Get 6-8 jumbo shrimp. Prepare and marinate the shrimp ahead of time with lemon, Herb Blend and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Just when you think the bora is almost done, add the shrimp. Stir, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Turn off the flame and let stand covered for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Stir to combine flavors and serve with steaming jasmine rice.

Bora Recipes: With Ground Beef and Sausage

CHEF’S NOTES

  • The biggest difference in using meat and poultry with bora is that your meats should be fully cooked and tender before adding the bora – as the bora cooks fairly quickly.
  • Ground beef can be used on its own without sausage.
  • For variation I sometimes use Andouille sausage instead of italian sweet and hot sausages.
  • Ground lamb is a very nice alternative. If using lamb twist it up with few pinches of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick when sauteing for hints of the middle east.
  • All meat, poultry and seafood should be marinated with one of my Herb Blends at least one hour and up to a few days before cooking for maximum flavor.
PREPARING THE MEAT
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 link sweet sausage and 1 link hot sausage
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons Herb Blend
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

COOKING THE MEAT
  1. Marinate the ground beef with at least 1 tsp herb blend and salt and pepper ahead of time and set aside.
  2. Wash and cut up the bora as described above in the video and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.
  4. Add 1 tbsp Herb Blend and sautè until fragrant and translucent.
  5. Add the ground meat and sausage and stir to coat with the herbs. Cook until browned. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  6. Cut up the sausage into rounds or split and remove the skin and combine with the ground beef.
  7. Cook until well combined and browned.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon of Herb Blend and stir to coat.
  9. PROCEED FROM STEP 4 OF THE VEGETARIAN RECIPE
Yummy Bora Cooked with Ground Beef and Italian Sausage

2 Comments Add yours

  1. April Cantor says:

    Thanks for your love-poem to bora! I had seen these long green beans in our neighborhood‘s Bengali market and wondered what they were. Reading your post inspired me to try them out. Your recipe was the perfect meal paired with coconut rice. And your jar of herb spice is ingenious, too. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome! I really appreciate your feedback. As the season winds down I am trying to save seeds to plant next year. Bora is a great favorite in our family. Cheers!

    Like

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