The search for Sum Gum

The Search for Sum Gum

The title of this blog sounds like it should be about a missing person, but that’s not the case.  My friend, Vicki, kept talking about a dish that her late mother used to make when Vicki was growing up.  The recipe was called Sum Gum, and she recalled it as one of her childhood favorites.    Vicki was certain that the recipe contained ground beef, a can of french cut green beans, rice, and soy sauce.  She wasn’t sure if there were any other ingredients, but she didn’t think so.

We both searched the internet looking for the recipe, but there were no Sum Gum recipes that resembled the Sum Gum of her youth.  Off I went to search through recipes with the requisite  ingredients.  I studied many green bean and ground beef recipes looking for one that had Asian roots.  My friend and I had very similar upbringings.  Our mothers were good, practical cooks, but they didn’t use what they would have considered to be exotic ingredients like fresh ginger root, and both of our mothers didn’t like or make spicy food. It wasn’t in their nature, so I dismissed any recipe which called for such ingredients.

This search  was a bit frustrating  because many of the recipes I studied sounded delicious and made me want to forget the one I was searching for.  After several weeks,  I headed off to the kitchen, realizing that I would simply have to  experiment.    I like to experiment in the kitchen and try to invent new recipes, so this was not a great sacrifice.  It took a few tries before I  came up with the recipe I present here.

What you will need to prepare this recipe?

From the Pantry:

  • Rice
  • Canned French Cut Green Beans
  • Corn Starch
  • Salt
  • Pepper

From the Root Cellar:

  • Onion
  • Garlic

From the Refrigerator:

  • Celery
  • Soy Sauce

From the Freezer:

  • Ground Beef

Here are the steps I used to create this meal.

IMG_1628First, chop a medium onion and two or three medium to large cloves of garlic.

Then,  put 1 1/2 cups of rice on the stove to cook.

IMG_1634While the rice is cooking, brown the hamburger in a pan with the onion and garlic.Once meat is cooked, drain excess fat, then add the liquid from a can of french cut green beans.  Reserving  beans for later.

IMG_1635Stir in some soy sauce.  At this point,Vicki and I have different opinions of what should happen.  She believes that the cooked rice should be stirred into the dish and more soy sauce added if necessary.  To tell the truth, she wasn’t sure about my additions of the onion and garlic, either.

IMG_1638 I like to serve things on top of rice, so I mixed cornstarch with some water and added it to the pan to make a thicker sauce since  I intended to serve  the dish to my family over rice.IMG_1640

This initially makes the sauce cloudy, but as it returns to a boil, it gets clear as it starts to thicken.  IMG_1641I know I’m not a very good photographer, but notice the darker, less cloudy spots in the photo.  Those are the places where the sauce is thickening.  It is very important to stir frequently during this part of the preparation to prevent sticking.

IMG_1642When the sauce has thickened, add the reserved french cut green beans and stir gently to incorporate.    Sprinkle liberally with pepper, and add some salt if necessary.  Leave on stove until green beans are thoroughly heated.  Serve individual portions over white rice or stir cooked rice into meat and vegetable mixture.

My family had mixed reviews about this dish.  Half of us liked it, Half of us thought it was weird.  Everyone ate it, and when I took leftovers to Vicki the next day, she said it was close to what she remembered.  Another co-worker suggested that maybe we could add some chopped celery in the beginning to give it more flavor.  You’ll notice that I added celery in the ingredient list because I made it a second time with the celery, and it was better.

Please let me know what you think of this recipe.  Also, if anyone has the original recipe for Sum Gum made with french cut green beans, please leave us a link to it.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting us at Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Sum Gum
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
This mixture of vegetables and ground beef is served on top of rice for a simple and satisfying meal. Cook's Note: If you prefer, frozen green beans can be used in place of the canned beans. An additional ¼ cup of water will need to be added to the recipe to replace the canning liquid. Total Cost of Recipe: $5.27 or $1.32 per serving.
  • 1½ cups raw white rice (2 – 3 cups cooked) ($0.21)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped ($0.20)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped or thinly sliced ($0.10)
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, chopped ($0.09)
  • 1 pound of ground beef ($3.79)
  • 1 (15 oz) can of french cut green beans with canning liquid. ($0.50)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons soy sauce or to taste ($0.19)
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons corn starch (more cornstarch makes a thicker sauce) ($0.16)
  • ¾ cup water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste. I like lots of pepper (about ½ teaspoon) and little to no salt. ($0.03)
  1. Chop onion, garlic, and celery and set aside.
  2. Cover rice with the appropriate amount of water and cook.
  3. While rice is cooking, brown ground beef with the chopped vegetables.
  4. When the meat is cooked, drain excess grease from pan.
  5. Add liquid only from can of green beans to pan.
  6. Stir in soy sauce.
  7. Mix cornstarch with water then pour into pan, stirring until it thickens.
  8. When sauce has thickened, add the reserved green beans and stir to incorporate into mixture.
  9. Heat through.
  10. Sprinkle liberally with pepper, add salt, to taste, if desired.
  11. Spoon over the cooked white rice.
  12. Serve.

Nutrition information is for 1/4 of the meat and vegetable recipe spooned over 3/4 cup of the cooked rice.

Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 539
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.6g
Saturated Fat 2.8g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 101mg
Sodium 1098mg
Total Carbohydrates 0.0g
Dietary Fiber 3.6g
Sugars 3.3g
Protein 41.3g
Vitamin A 7%
Vitamin C 10%
Calcium 4%
Iron 137%

Disclaimer:  Nutritional information is calculated using online tools such as those available at or  We make every attempt to ensure that this information is calculated correctly, but this information should be considered estimates.   Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe.  In addition, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition-fact sources, databases and the algorithms used.   You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.  Under no circumstances will be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. 

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