Sichuanese spiced cucumber salad

Sichuanese spiced cucumber salad

Qiang huang gua

By
From
Every Grain of Rice
Photographer
Chris Terry

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.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 cucumber, (about 300g)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cooking oil
4-5 dried chillies, snipped in half, seeds discarded as far as possible
1/2-1 teaspoon whole sichuan pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method

  1. 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.
  2. Drain the cucumber and shake dry.
  3. 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.

Variation

  • Spiced potato sliver salad: If you’ve never tasted a dish like this, prepare to be surprised. It’s a simple concoction of potato slivers enlivened by scorched chillies and Sichuan pepper, but the potatoes are deliberately cooked so fleetingly that they retain some of their raw crunchiness. Peel 300 g potatoes (larger ones will be easier to cut). Cut them evenly into the thinnest possible slices, then into slivers; you may use a mandolin for this, if you have one. Place the slivers in a bowl of lightly salted cold water as you work, so they don’t discolour.

    Bring a panful of water to a boil and blanch the potato slivers for about two minutes; they should remain crisp. Turn them into a sieve, refresh under the cold tap and shake dry. Place in a bowl and add 1 1/2 tablespoons clear rice vinegar and salt to taste. Now make the spicy oil: snip eight dried chillies in half and discard their seeds as far as possible. Heat 3 tablespoons cooking oil in a wok over a medium flame. Add the chillies and 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan pepper and sizzle gently until the chillies are darkening but not burnt. Add the oil and spices to the potato with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, mix well, then serve.
Tags:
Chinese
Sichuanese
Asian
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