Today I was craving a bit of fresh salad after a having scarfed down a fast-food dinner last night at a friend’s, so I thought to recreate this Chinese-style Cucumber Salad.
I first tasted version of this at one my family’s favourite restaurant in Hong Kong: a tiny, literally 7-table eatery tucked away in North Point. Amongst ourselves we referred to it as ‘North Point Noodles’, and honestly I never knew its real name! Hard to believe, I know. There was a signboard above the narrow shopfront but we got so used to calling it by its nickname, and their noodles and dumplings were so distractingly good, it never really mattered what it was called. Its exact location we guarded like a jealous secret, but we would go back every two weeks for its delicious minced pork and preserved vegetable noodles, pork and cabbage dumplings, and this cucumber starter.
The cucumber is served chilled, after having been dressed with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, a little sugar and soy sauce, and tossed with pan-fried garlic and chilli. Sometimes the cucumber’s fleshy side is ‘smashed’ with the back of a knife, rather than chopped, to allow it to soak up more of the dressing. I’ve gone for chopping here as my chopping board was covered in cucumber ‘guts’ and juice already :P.
I particularly love the balance of sour with sweet and salty, and the way that the coolness of the cucumber plays against the heat from the chilli; it’s these flavours that make it an appetite-inducing starter.
Chinese-style Cucumber Salad
1 large cucumber – scraped out the seeds and chop into 2 inch chunks
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small red chilli, minced
1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil, to fry the garlic and chilli
for the dressing
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1.5 teaspoons of white sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
a dash of soy sauce
1. Prepare cucumber, using a knife to cut down the lengths of the fleshy seed part of the cucumber, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.
2. Chop cucumber. If you’re feeling ambitious, use the back of the knife to smash the cucumber, flesh side up, to allow it to absorb more of the dressing later.
3. Sprinkle salt across cucumber pieces to draw out some of its moisture.
4. Mix ingredients for the dressing. Set aside.
5. Heat pan on medium heat, add vegetable oil; when oil is hot, fry garlic and half the quantity of red chilli you’ve prepared.
6. Fry until garlic is just about turning golden and turn off heat.
7. Tip in garlic, chilli and hot oil into the dressing mixture. Stir.
8. Drain excess liquid from cucumber. Add dressing, mix well. I like to do this in a plastic container so I can really shake the salad around and coat it with the dressing!
Hope those of you who are intrigued will try this out :).
P.S. Like my new blog theme? Brings out the Pisces in me, ha!