- 1 cucumber (about 300g)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 4–5 dried chillies, snipped in half, seeds discarded as far as possible
- 1/2–1 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Sic huanese spiced cucumber salad
This swiftly stir-fried cucumber, infused with the smoky aromas of chillies and Sichuan pepper and the subtle fragrance of sesame oil, is normally served at room temperature and can be made a few hours in advance of your meal. It uses the Sichuanese qiang cooking method, in which a brief blast of heat in the wok drives the flavours of the spices into the main ingredient. It is usually served as an appetiser, or as a side dish with a selection of Sichuanese ‘small eats’, such as the slippery dragon wontons, ‘glassy’ steamed dumplings and Lai glutinous rice balls for which the regional capital Chengdu is famed.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the pulp and seeds with a teaspoon (I usually eat them as I go along). Then cut each half into about three sections and slice each section into thin strips. Place the pieces in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Drain the cucumber and shake dry.
Heat a wok over a high flame. Pour in the cooking oil, swirl it quickly around, then add the chillies and Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry the spices until the chillies are darkening but not burnt, then add the cucumber. Stir-fry very briefly to heat the surface of the cucumber and drive in the flavours of the oil. Off the heat, stir in the sesame oil and turn on to a serving dish.
“Every Grain of Rice” by Fuchsia Dunlop, published by Bloomsbury, RRP $55 available where books are sold.
Tips and Tricks
With their high water content, cucumbers have a relatively short lifespan in the fridge where cold temperatures will accelerate decay. Store in your vegie crisper or on the upper shelves of your fridge and consume between 1-3 days for best results.