Saucy cucumber side-salad*

*This is actually a Chinese dish called liangban huanggua 涼拌黃瓜, which more literally translates to “cucumbers [tossed] in cold sauce.” But although the dish is best served cold, its nature is downright firey. Spicy. Saucy, even, because this dish can and will sass you back if you don’t combine it with something nice and bland, like eggs on rice, avocado on rice, sweet stir-fried beef and carrots on rice, or, cold soup-noodles – ideally the noodles are made from rice. (Can you tell rice is my favorite grain?)

Ingredients:
  • 5-6 persian cucumbers (little cucumbers with thin/tasty skin, not the standard American ones with tough/bitter skin, or the little stubby pickling kind with thick skin)
  • Roughly 2 tsp each of good salt, sugar
  • 3-8 cloves of garlic (scale to taste, I like at least one per cucumber)
  • 1-2 tsp of chopped sichuan chillies (red bird’s eye chillies, or mexican chillies, will also work for this)
  • 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of sesame oil

Method:

Wash cucumbers, pat mostly dry, and chop off ends. Using the flat surface of a large knife, smash them like so:

one smashed cucumber, with five more prepped and ready
Smash ’em up, for all the workers who spend hours and do nothing. Smash ’em up for all your sisters who got caught up in this funky system. Yea yea you know we gotta, smash ’em up yeaaaaaaaaa.

Then roughly dice them into bite-sized pieces, and place them in a bowl. Once finished, sprinkle the salt and sugar over the cucumber, using a spoon to get them good and coated. Let sit for 20 – 60 minutes or so, until a fair amount of liquid has seeped out of the cucumbers (you can expedite this step by using more salt/sugar). What is a fair amount of liquid? Roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the height of the cucumbers in your bowl. This time I was rushed, and only got 1/5 the height, so I added a little less soy sauce to compensate.

While waiting on the moisture to leech out of the cucumbers, assemble the sauce. Dice up the garlic and chilies and mix in a bowl. Then add in vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. (Note: I don’t actually measure these things, more like eyeball 2 parts vinegar, 2-3 parts soy sauce depending on how much salt I used, and 4 parts sesame oil.)

diced garlic and chillies in a bowl
Garlic and chillies, nom.
Fire sauce, prepped and ready
Fire sauce on the ready.

Once the salt/sugar has leeched a fair amount of moisture out of the cucumbers (see photo above for minimum amount needed) drain that off, sauce the dish up, and let sit at least an hour before enjoying.

Medicinal Actions:

Cucumbers are very cooling, making them great to eat during the hot weather of summer, or for people with heat-type constitutions. For those of us who run cold, however, or who have weak digestion with a tendency toward loose stools, cucumbers can be difficult to digest. This is where the sauce comes in.

Garlic is warming, which will protect the digestion against the coldness of the cucumber. Chilies are hot, and moving (if you have GERD, stomach ulcers, or hemorrhoids, you’ll want to omit these from this dish entirely). They stoke the digestive fire, burning through the dampness (feeling of heavy-sluggishness, mental fog, and fatigue) that often plagues those with weak digestion. Further, they’ll help protect those sensitive to cold-drafts from the constant use of fans/air-conditioning during the summer.