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  • Recipe Room  »  Smacked cucumber in garlicky sauce



    • 1 cucumber (about 300g)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
    • 1/2 tsp caster sugar
    • 2 tsp light soy sauce
    • 1/2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
    • 2 tbsp chilli oil
    • A pinch or two of ground roasted Sichuan pepper, (optional)

    Smacked cucumber in garlicky sauce

    This exceptionally quick and easy dish was a favourite of mine at the now demolished and much-missed Bamboo Bar, a small restaurant just outside the Sichuan University campus. The serving girls there, who lodged like sardines in the attic at the top of the old wooden building, used to mix up the seasonings behind the counter, taking spoonfuls of garnet-red chilli oil and dark soy sauce from the bowls in the glass cabinet beside them and tossing the cucumber in the piquant sauce. The combination of seasonings, known as ‘garlic paste flavour’ (suan ni wei), is a Sichuanese classic, with its garlicky pungency and undercurrent of sweetness. You may use sweet, aromatic soy sauce instead of light soy sauce if you have it in stock.

    The cucumber is smacked before cutting to loosen its flesh and help it absorb the flavours of the sauce. Try not to smash it into smithereens! 


    Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it hard a few times with the flat blade of a Chinese cleaver or with a rolling pin. Then cut it, lengthways, into four pieces. Hold your knife at an angle to the chopping board and cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1/2–1cm slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix well and set aside for about 10 minutes.

    Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl.

    Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir well and serve immediately.


    A sweet-and-sour sauce for smacked cucumber

    A lovely variation. Smack, cut and salt the cucumber as in the main recipe, but dress it with the following seasonings: 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic, 2 tsp caster sugar, 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar, 1 tsp light soy sauce and, if you fancy a bit of heat, 2 tbsp chilli oil.

    Smacked cucumber with sesame and preserved mustard greens

    For a nutty, savoury flavour, smack, cut and salt the cucumber as in the main recipe, but dress it with the following seasonings: 2 tbsp Sichuan preserved mustard greens (ya cai), 1 tsp finely chopped garlic, 1 tbsp runny sesame paste, 1 1/2 tsp clear rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil and salt to taste.

    “Every Grain of Rice” by Fuchsia Dunlop, published by Bloomsbury, RRP $55 available where books are sold.

    Submitted by
    Fuchsia Dunlop

    Tips and Tricks

    • Experiment with other fresh vegies you may have in the fridge – try adding capsicum or leftover leafy greens.

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