Spicy Cucumber Salad (recipe from episode 23)

Adapted from Land of Plenty, by Fuchsia Dunlop

1 English cucumber
2 tablespoons peanut oil
8 long dried red chiles, snipped into 1-inch sections
2 teaspoons whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and pulp with a spoon, and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick half-moons.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the peanut oil and swirl around to cover the base of the wok. Turn the heat down to medium-high and then add the chilies and Sichuan pepper. Cook for a few seconds until they smell deliciously spicy and the chilies are turning a darker red color. Take great care not to burn the spices.

Toss in the cucumber pieces and stir for about 30 seconds to heat and coat them in the flavored oil, adding salt to taste. Remove from the heat, add the sesame oil and stir thoroughly. The cucumber should not be cooked through, just swiftly heated so that it absorbs the flavor of the spices. Allow to cool before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

6 thoughts on “Spicy Cucumber Salad (recipe from episode 23)

  1. Cheryl in France

    My first comment, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE your podcast! It has just the right combination of information and fun. I had been a little disppointed with the last two, something about the chemistry felt a little off, but I felt that you guys were BACK for the cucumber epi. Maybe it’s bc you got to say things like flacid and other such gems! Anyway, I tried this tonight(having never cooked a cucumber or even thought of it). It definitely has potential.

    I had one question, one comment and one problem- the question- do you eat the peppercorns as part of the dish or avoid them?

    my comment- Salting of the cukes – if done long enough and in a sieve – salting removes some of the excess water to render them slightly crunchier, but more importantly there are 2 other results: the cuke won’t have as much water to give up so if you use them in a salad, they won’t make the salad dressing watery and gross and the cuke’s flavor will have concentrated, since some of the water (diluting the flavor) will be gone, it should taste ‘cukier’. In McGee’s book, when he discusses salting eggplant, he mentions that the removing bitternes is only one of the reasons. The more important reason (p332) is to ‘reduce its absorptiveness’, which I think can also apply to cucumbers – they won’t absorb as much oil/dressing/etc. I think that would translate into a cucumber that, when marinated, would retain its cucumber-ness. Here’s a site that explains it better (I googled it, I don’t know this person)http://mysite.verizon.net/jserdmann/Recipe-CucumberSalad.html They tested different amounts of salt and (in a very ‘Cooks Illustrated’ methodology) came up with the perfect blend. It’s worth a shot.

    My problem is, I live in France and we don’t have access to chilis. Do you have any recommendations? I have a jar of pequillo peppers, a jar of fiery Italian cherry peppers and a jar of spicy green Italian peppers. I also have Chinese dried peppers, but those SOBs are KILLER. This go round I used 2 cherry peppers, which wasn’t enough to get the heat. I may (next time) use some of the oil in the jar for the saute to get some more heat. So, what do you think?

    REALLY love your podcast, hope it lasts forever! Y’all inspired me to try the onigiri, this recipe for cukes, and got me thinking about peas and how I’ve always treated them. Would love episodes on turnips, artichokes, celery root- some of those things that we’ve all seen but maybe been afraid to try for whatever reason. If you could give me a way to tolerate Brussels sprouts, you should win an award…

    Oh and chorizo- that stuff is amazing and needs more PR!
    Can’t wait until next week! (and if you ever want a French perspective on market veggies and how they are treated here, which sometimes is *very* different, I’d love to contribute!)

    1. mamster Post author

      I know you have access to _piment d’espelette,_ Cheryl. That would work fine in the salad. Thanks very much for the comment!

  2. Cheryl

    lastly- do we crunch down on the ‘corns or eat around them? There is something in me that feels a little scared and like I’m doing something fundamentally wrong by eating a peppercorn…

  3. chris

    Very important when making this recipe: Turn on the stove fan and open all the windows! Or you will kill yourself with the capsicum and ma la fumes. But if you live, the results taste great.

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