Sichuan Style Dressed Cucumber
There are countless dressed Cucumber preparations, both in Western and Eastern cuisines. A particular variety involving salted Cucumber pieces is especially popular in Asian cookery, particularly in Japan and Korea. This bold and quite fiery version has its roots in Western China, and is pungent with scorched chili, Sichuan pepper, and the tang of Black Vinegar.
Notes on the Ingredients
This recipe calls for Sichuan Pepper Oil (or “huajiao oil”). This, as the name suggests, is prepared using Sichuan Pepper, and can be purchased online, or in Asian grocery stores. Some people make their own at home, but you can also substitute for it in this recipe by adding a teaspoon or so of coarsely ground Sichuan at the same time as the chili (just be sure to remove the hard, black kernels before grinding).
Chinkiang Black Vinegar is also quite easily available, but if you are unable to source it, you can substitute with a very mild Balsamic Vinegar, or else a plain Rice Vinegar instead.
The Basic Method
To begin, toss the cucumber pieces with salt and let them sit in a bowl for about 30 minutes to soften and throw off some water. Afterwards, squeeze the pieces really well to remove excess liquid and set aside.
Next, heat Vegetable oil, Sesame oil, and Sichuan Pepper Oil in a pan over moderate heat and add in whole dried Chilies. When these are just beginning to darken, add in chopped garlic and sauté until the aroma arises. Now, splashes of Soy Sauce, Chinkiang Black Vinegar, along with a little sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved and all is heated through.
Finally, pour the dressing over the Cucumber and allow everything to cool. Let it all sit for at least 20 minutes to allow the dressing flavors to penetrate the pieces and then serve.
Storing and Serving Sichuan Style Dressed Cucumber
If you do not wish to serve immediately, or would like to marinate the cucumber for a little longer, you can place it in the fridge until ready. It is best, however, if you allow the dish to come up to room temperature before serving.
You can serve this as an appetizer, or even as one dish in a Dim-Sum style service, but these cucumbers work nicely as a side-dish as well. Above, you can see some being served alongside a little portion of Korean-style ‘flanken cut’ ribs.
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Sichuan Style Dressed Cucumber
- ½ an English Cucumber seeded and cut into 2-inch batons;
- ½ tsp. Salt;
- 1 ½ tbsp. Vegetable Oil;
- ½ tsp. each Sichuan Pepper Oil and Sesame Oil;
- 1 ½ tsp. small dried Chilies Birdseye are fine;
- 1 tsp. chopped Garlic;
- 1 tbsp. Soy Sauce;
- 1 tbsp. Chinkiang Black Vinegar;
- 1 tsp. Sugar.
- Toss the Cucumber pieces with the salt and let sit for about 30 minutes.
- When the Cucumber is softened, rinse quickly with water and squeeze hard to remove excess liquid.
- Heat the three oils in a pan over moderate heat, then add the chilies and sauté them until just beginning to darken.
- Add the garlic and, when its aroma rises, add in the Soy Sauce, Vinegar, and Sugar, stirring until the sugar is melted.
- Pour the oil and spice dressing over the cumbers and let them cool and sit for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate.
- Serve at room temperature when ready.