This dish contrasts the fresh, light taste of cucumbers with the more umami flavors of fermented black beans (douchi, 豆豉) and spicy bean paste (la doubanjiang, 辣豆瓣酱). In the United States we’re not used to cooking our cucumbers, but in China cucumbers are usually thought of as a cooked vegetable. This recipe is tasty enough to convince you that the Chinese are on to something.
The cucumbers retain their crispiness, while the stir-frying melds the flavors together.
INGREDIENTS and PREP:
- One English cucumber, peeled and cut lengthwise into long quarters, then cut into 3/4″ pieces; then mixed with 1 Tbsp salt and let drain in a colander for 30 minutes; then rinsed well and patted dry
- 3 large cloves garlic and 1/2″ ginger, minced; 1 Tbsp fermented black beans (douchi, 豆豉), roughly chopped; 3 scallions, white parts only, roughly chopped
- 1 generous Tbsp spicy doubanjiang (辣豆瓣酱), mixed with 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Heat your wok until barely smoking. Then add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Then add the garlic, ginger, black beans, and onions (#2). Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
- Add the cucumbers (#1) and stir well, then add the mixture of bean paste and pepper (#3). Stir-fry briefly until everything is mixed together and hot.
- Now add the water (#4) and stir well; cook in the wok for about 3 minutes until the water starts to boil off, leaving a somewhat thickened sauce. Add the sesame oil (#5), stir once more, and serve.
Variations: Add 1 tsp freshly ground cumin to #3. Alternatively, add 1/2 cup coarsely shredded fresh shiso leaf to the final stir in the wok.
Inspiration: This recipe is a variation of a spicy cucumber stir-fry from Ken Hom’s Complete Chinese Cookbook. If you enjoy cooking Chinese food at home, please buy his book. You’ll find yourself turning to it often.