Chinese Cucumber Salad

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When my mother went through her Chinese cooking phase, which began when we moved Seattle, Washington, she was a whirling dervish in the kitchen.

It was steamed buns, sea cucumbers, fried dumplings, whole baked fish, fermented bean sauce, dried shark’s fins, wintermelon soup, hotpots, and a lot of unidentifiable ingredients.

Our kitchen smelled like dried fish, just like the Chinese grocery store we would frequent at Pike Place market. If you want to read more about my mother’s crazy eccentric phase cooking for an uninspired husband and tweens with limited palates and even less patience, read Growing up Foodie.

I wasn’t much for vinegar or cucumbers when I was young. But I always remembered a Chinese cucumber salad my mother made. And I’m talking real cucumbers, not sea cucumbers.

When I married, I was gifted the set of Time Life Foods of the World cookbooks by my mother. At that point I had an improved palate. I made the cucumber out of this book, and have been making it ever since.

I love the salad because it’s a little salty, a little sweet, and it is rounded out with hot sauce and sesame oil. So many wonderful layers of flavor!

Because of my mother’s time working closely to her Chinese friend, Mrs. Chin, from whom she took Chinese cooking lessons, she learned lots of tricks, like this one.

Mrs. Chin always de-seeded cucumbers before using them by halving cucumbers lengthwise, and either cutting out or scooping out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. To this day I do it without thinking. I have nothing against cucumber seeds, but they’re watery.

It looks like I’m destroying the poor cucumber in the photo where I’m scraping the seeds out with a spoon. Definitely use a melon baller.

Then I salt the cucumber slices on the inside, turn them over on paper towels, and let them drip dry for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have the time, just wipe the insides with a paper towel after you’ve removed the seeds.

Here’s the recipe from the Chinese cookbook.

Cucumber Salad with Spicy Dressing
Liang-pan-huang-kua
printable recipe below

2 medium cucumbers
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (or a little less)
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (or a little more)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel the cucumbers and cut them lengthwise in two. With a melon baller, scrape the seeds out of each half, leaving hollow boats.

Cut the cucumbers crosswise into 1/4” thick slices.

In a small glass bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame seed oil, Tabasco, and salt, and mix well.


Add the cucumber. With a large spoon, toss to coat each slice thoroughly with the dressing.

Chill slightly before serving.

And yes, I love hot sauce!

As a cold side dish at a Chinese meal, it will serve 4 to 6.

I sprinkled some black sesame seeds over the cucumber salad just for fun, even though they look like seed ticks. They are not.

My friend had recently gifted me with fresh tuna steaks, so I served them with the cucumber salad. It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal.


 

 

Sriracha Gazpacho

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During the years my younger daughter lived in London, I “smuggled” Sriracha sauce in my suitcase for her at every visit. It just wasn’t a product she could find in London. I always double-bagged the 28-ounce plastic bottle with sealable bags. Can you imagine if 28 ounces of hot sauce exploded in your suitcase?!!


On Amazon.com, the 28-ounce bottle of Sriracha can be purchased for $3.74. And imagine how long that bottle will last? Well, everyone except for my daughter who puts it on everything, any time of day. It’s an inexpensive addiction, at least.

My mother recently sent me The Sriracha Cookbook just for fun! The author is Chef Randy Clemens, and his book was published in 2011.

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In the introduction, Chef Clemens tells the lengthy story of the over 30-year history of this now ubiquitous “rooster” sauce. It was originally a Thai product. David Tran, born in Vietnam of Chinese decent, brought it to American after being forcibly moved for political reasons. Once settled in Chinatown in Los Angeles, he started Huy Fong Foods, and in 1983 created Tu’o’ng Ó’t Sriracha. The familiar rooster on the squeeze bottle represents the year of Tran’s birth on the Chinese zodiac.

Being that Sriracha is more of a seasoning than an ingredient, I was a little skeptical about the originality of the cookbook’s recipes. I mean, I think we’ve all squirted some Sriracha into mayo or pho for some zing. But the recipes are overall unique, and definitely embrace spicy foods, which my whole family enjoys – especially my Sriracha addict!

I chose to make a spicy Sriracha Gazpacho from the cookbook.

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Sriracha Gazpacho
from The Sriracha Cookbook

6 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1/2 red onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
3 Persian cucumbers, diced
2 small jalapeños, seeded and minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Sriracha, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, thinly sliced, for garnish
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced diagonally, for garnish.

Puree the tomatoes in a food mill, blender, or food processor. (I used a food mill and didn’t peel and seed the tomatoes first.)

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In a large nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the puree with the onion, yellow and green bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, jalapeños, garlic, parsley, cilantro, Sriracha, lemon juice, and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use, to allow the flavors to marry.

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Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the avocado slices and a squiggle of Sriracha.

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Top with the green onions, and finish it off with a friendly drizzle of olive oil.

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note 1: I made a smaller batch, but I respected the ratio of ingredients.

note 2: I used a regular cucumber, de-seeded.
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note 3: I used lime juice instead of lemon juice.

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note 4: I didn’t use a green bell pepper because I am not fond of them.

verdict: I absolutely loved this gazpacho! Even the next day it was delicious. The whole soup could easily be made in a food processor, but I decided I liked the texture of the bits of vegetables. Next time I wouldn’t change a thing!