Yunnan Province, Southwestern China
Serves 4 as a salad or as one of many dishes in a rice meal
In this salad, the cucumbers are first dressed with a little vinegar, then dressed again with hot oil. The contrast of smooth chile-warm oil and crisp fresh cucumber is a knockout. The salad has a mild but not aggressive heat made with the 5 dried red chiles. Note that the cucumbers will soften if they're left standing, so don't pour the hot oil over them until just before you wish to serve the salad.
1 large or 2 medium European cucumbers (1 to 1-1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
5 Thai dried red chiles, or 3 for milder heat
1/2 jalapeño, minced
7 Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed torn coriander leaves
Peel the cucumber, leaving some thin strips of peel on if you wish, for a decorative effect. Cut lengthwise into quarters and scrape off and discard the seeds. Use the flat side of a cleaver or large knife to bash the cucumber pieces several times. Cut the pieces lengthwise into thinner strips, then cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Place in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and sugar. Pour over the cucumber, mix well, and set aside.
Place a wok or skillet over high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the dried chiles, jalapeñno, and peppercorns and stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour this over the cucumbers. Sprinkle on the salt and mix well.
Mound the salad in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the coriander leaves and serve immediately.
Note: The traditional way to make this uses 3 tablespoons of oil, giving a well-oiled texture that may be undesirable. If you wish, try both and see which you prefer.
Hot Sour Salty Sweet
A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia
By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Artisan, November 2000
368 pages, full-color throughout, over 175 recipes
Recipe reprinted by permission.
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This page created January 2001
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