Pork with Tree Ears and Cucumber

Pork with Tree Ears and Cucumber

Pork with Tree Ears and Cucumber

This easy to prepare stir-fried dish uses an ingredient unfamiliar to most Westerners. It is a type of dried Black Chinese Fungus known, somewhat poetically, as 木耳. This directly translates a ‘Wood Ears’ but is more commonly known in English as ‘Tree Ears’. It has very little flavor of its own, but is prized for its interesting texture. Cucumbers are, of course, widely used in the West, but for most it is a salad vegetable. It actually works very nicely when used as vegetable in stir-fried dishes as well.

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Taiwan Pickle at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa

Taiwan Pickle at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa

Taiwan Pickle at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa

I have had many different types of Chinese Pickled Cucumbers over the years. Most of which have been Sichuan style with chili included somewhere in the pickling mix. The ones you see pictured above were served to me at the Palais Imperial in Ottawa’s Byward Market and were considerably different than most. They were noel and interesting, and very tasty.

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Pig Ears at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa

Pig Ears at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa

Pig Ears at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa

Pig Ears are sometimes encountered in various cuisines in the West but they really aren’t all that widely consumed. In China, they are prized for their texture and are most commonly eaten cold in salad-type preparations, sometimes even as an item on Dim Sum manus.. The Pig Ear Salad at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa was nicely prepared and bold with a fiery Chili Oil dressing.

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Seaweed Salad with Garlic at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa

Seaweed Salad with Garlic at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa

Seaweed Salads are quite common in Japanese restaurants, but they do occasionally appear on Chinese restaurant menus as well. What made the version at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa stand out was the use of Kelp, rather than one of the more commonly used varieties like Wakame, or Arame. A variety of Kelp, known as ‘Kombu’ is widely used in Japanese cuisine to make the ubiquitous ‘Dashi’, but it doesn’t appear often otherwise. As such, I was very interested to try this particular appetizer.

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Jellyfish Salad at the Juxiangyuan Restaurant in Ottawa

Jellyfish Salad at the Juxiangyuan Restaurant in Ottawa

Jellyfish appears only occasionally on Dim Sum menus and the version you see above was actually served as an Appetizer at the now defunct Juxiangyuan Restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown. It was reasobaly fresh, and the vegetables were nicely tender, but the rendition, though generally good, was not the best I have ever had.

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Vietnamese Cucumber Shrimp Salad at Wei’s Noodle House in Ottawa

Vietnamese Cucumber Shrimp Salad at Wei’s Noodle House in Ottawa

Vietnamese Cucumber Shrimp Salad

The rather attractive salad pictured above was one of the Vietnamese appetizer dishes offered at Wei’s Noodle House, an Asian Fusion Restaurant in Ottawa. It actually contained more lettuce than cucumber, as it turned out, but the ingredients were fresh, the dressing subtle, and the overall effect very pleasant.

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Chili Bamboo Pickle Shrimp

Chili Bamboo Pickle Shrimp

There is a commercially prepared product I like to have on hand as it is useful for last minute meals. Bamboo Shoots are widely available in different forms, fresh, dried, canned, and brine-pickled, but a favored type for me is the Chili-pickled variety, in which slices or strips of tender Bamboo Shoots are preserved in Red Chili Oil. Here, I have used with Shrimp, stir-fried with slices of Cucumber.

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Sichuan Style Dressed Cucumber
Sichuan Style Dressed Cucumber

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.


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Japanese Cucumber Salad
Japanese Cucumber Salad

Japanese Cucumber Salad

This very simple little preparation is an example of a Japanese Sunomono, or ‘vinegared’ dish. There are all sorts of variations on the general theme but this is about as basic as it gets. You can, if you like, simply use plain rice vinegar for the dressing but, today, we will be using a pre-made Japanese Nihaizu Seasoned Vinegar.


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Sesame Cucumber Salad
Sesame Cucumber Salad

Sesame Cucumber Salad

There are many cold dishes in Asian cuisine featuring cucumbers which are first salted and then later served in a dressing of some sort. Sometimes, the cucumber is allowed to ferment slightly in order to produce a nice lactic acid pickle and, at other times, as here, the salting time is just brief enough to soften the flesh and make it receptive to flavorings. Today’s dish definitely falls within the latter category. It doesn’t hail from any particular cuisine but would be equally at home on a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean table.


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