Do you ever “smack” your food? You can tenderize meat or massage greens but I never imagined myself “smacking” a cucumber. Yes, in this recipe you use a blade of a cleaver or a rolling pin and smack a whole cucumber hard a few times. This encourages the cucumber to loosen its flesh and absorb the flavors of this spicy and sweet dressing. Be warned – not too hard though!
Are you looking for a sweet and spicy side dish with crunchy cucumbers and great flavor? Then this appetizer which is common in the Hunan Province of China is just the recipe. I almost ate the entire cucumber it was that good. My lips were tingling and the sweetness of the sauce paired with the heat of the chilies was perfect.
I would recommend using the flat blade of a cleaver as it gently splits the skin of the cucumber. However, when I used a rolling pin I killed the cucumber and smashed it to smithereens!
This recipe was inspired by “Every Grain of Rice” by Fuchsia Dunlop. It is a quick and easy Sichuanese dish that I have slightly adapted. The sauce can also be used to dress broad beans, sliced pork or dumplings and wontons.
Smacked Cucumber with a Sweet Sour Sauce, Adapted
- 1 regular cucumber (not English), 11 oz. should be firm and a nice size (I removed the seeds)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. fresh garlic, finely chopped (add to taste)
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. light soy sauce ( I did use dark)
- 2 tsp. Chinkiang vinegar
- 2 tbsp. chili oil (see recipe below if you want to make homemade as well as instructions on how to grind your own chilies) add this to taste as it depends on the heat of your chilies
Place the cucumber on a chopping board and “smack” it hard a few times with the flat side of a cleaver. I found a rolling pin was too forceful and kind of destroyed the cucumber. The cucumber will slightly split and then cut it lengthwise, into 4 pieces. Then cut it on the diagonal into 1/8-3/8 inch slices. Place in a bowl, add the salt and let sit for 10 minutes; drain.
Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over the cucumber. Stir and serve immediately.
Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce:
- 1 cucumber as above
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. finely minced garlic (add to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. light soy sauce (can use dark)
- 1/2 tsp. Chinkiang vinegar
- 2 tbsp. chili oil (add to taste)
- pinch or two of ground roasted Sichuan pepper (optional)
Follow the directions above with the sweet and sour version.
How to Grind Chilies:
Cut the chilies in sections so you can remove as many seeds as possible and discard. Add the chilies to a dry pan over a low heat until you can smell their fragrance and are crisp. Mine did not really get crisp like I thought they would.
Add a very small amount of oil and continue to stir until they become darker (see pictures below). A mortar and pestle did not work for me (no patience to use a mortar and pestle on that many peppers) so I used one of my electric grinders. You want to end up with flakes and not a powder. I carried the grinding a little too far but the flavor of the oil was spicy and the color was beautiful too!
- 2 cups oil plus 2 tbsp. (I used peanut oil – any cooking oil is fine)
- 4 oz. ground chilies
- 1 tsp. sesame seeds
- small piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled and crushed
Heat the oil over a hot flame to 400°F (a thermometer is really needed). Remove from heat and allow to cool to 275°F, about 10 minutes.
Add the ground chilies, sesame seeds and ginger to a heatproof bowl. When the oil has cooled to 275°F pour a little onto the chilies. The aroma was rich and smelled wonderful but it did not fizz as mentioned in the recipe. You want a deep, ruby red color but try not to burn it.
Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com