Versions of this salad are served all over China, sometimes spiked with dried chiles, Sichuan peppercorns and other spices for more dimensions of flavor. The smashing process, a classic Chinese technique, cracks the skin, helps release the seeds and splits the flesh into appealing craggy pieces. Salting and chilling the cracked cucumbers give them the perfect cool, crunchy, watery mouth feel. You want to use the slender Japanese cucumbers as they are thin-skinned, never bitter and entirely edible.
- 2-3 Japanese cucumbers (about 400g) smashed and chopped (use any kirby, English, Chinese cucumbers. These varieties are less seedy, very crispy and tasty).
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 red bird chili (optional)
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 4 dried red chilies干红辣椒
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorn花椒
- 1 bay leave月桂叶
- 1 small stick cinnamon bark肉桂
- 1 slice ginger生姜
- 1 small piece leek大葱, sliced
- 15g coriander, roughly chopped香菜
- 1 tablespoon Chinese white rice vinegar 白米醋
- 2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar镇江香醋
- 1 teaspoon Sesame oil 香油 (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt盐
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce 生抽
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar白糖
- Place the cucumbers on the chopping board. Using the side of a cleaver or chef knife, smash the cumbers until they have cracked into several small long pieces. Remove the tops and bottoms and cut into small bite sized pieces. Place in a serving bowl. Finely sliced red bird chili and mince the garlic. Place garlic and chili on top of the cucumbers.
- Now make the salad dressing, Using another bowl, mix in the rice vinegar, Chinkiang vinegar, salt, soy sauce and sugar. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a frying pan and add a slice of ginger, sliced leek, dried chilies, bay leave, cinnamon balk and Szechuan pepper. Fry over low heat until the leek releases its fragrance and the chili turns bright red. Switch off the heat and remove all the spices. Add the oil to the cucumbers, pour into the vinegar dressing. Mix well. Serve immediately or place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.