Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chinese Slapped Cucumber

I am back from China! We had an amazing time, but traveling is so exhausting and over the course of our 2 week trip, we were in 4 different cities and on 6 different planes. Whew! Believe it or not, this was one of our very favorite dishes our tour guide searched out for us. I definitely cannot pronounce nor write the name in Mandarin, but it literally translates to slapped cucumber.

It's called that because the chefs usually just "slap" the cucumber with the back spine of their knives and toss whatever pieces are the end result with a spicy, garlicky sauce. I didn't necessarily want cucumber flying all over my kitchen so I just sliced mine.

I guess I should explain why this was one of our favorite dishes- the first day or two we had pretty tourist-y food. It was explained to us from a few different sources that tourists are given kind of blander foods because many restaurants and guides think that is what we want. Travis and I had gotten a list of dishes to try from a friend of ours who studied in China for a year, and this Slapped Cucumber thingiemajig was on there, so we asked our awesome guide Kathy if she could find it for us. She laughed, said of course, and we subsequently asked for it pretty much at each meal for the rest of the trip.

Don't get me wrong, it's kind of a kick in the face of flavor with the pungent garlic and spicy hot chili peppers used as flavorings. But at the same time, it also has a cooling effect from the cucumber itself. It is kind of strange, but really really good. I fancied mine up a bit with some sesame seeds and a touch of soy sauce, but those are both completely optional if you don't want them. Try them out the next time you make sweet and sour pork or orange beef-- you won't be disappointed!
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Slapped Cucumbers

A Butter Than Toast Original

1 large cucumber, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sauce (see below)

1/2 teaspoon Asian style chile oil
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 large pinches of sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated

Garnish: (optional)
Sesame seeds
Minced red pepper (or red pepper flakes if that's what you can find)

Mix the salt into the cucumber. Let sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Drain excess liquid and toss cucumber with sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or red pepper if desired and serve cold.

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