Szechuan pickled cucumbers
Traditional pickles are usually very tart, but nowadays our tastes have softened. We no longer have the same need to actually "pickle'' food to preserve it but we still enjoy the salty character and sharp tang. So here are a few of my - just mildly - mouth puckering recipes.
Photo: Marina Oliphant
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- 6 Lebanese cucumbers
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup peanut oil (or use vegetable oil)
- 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (or use black peppercorns)
- 3 small dried chillies, or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 large knob ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 100ml rice wine vinegar
- 100g castor sugar
- 50ml soy
Slice cucumbers in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Now slice the length in half, then into 1cm-thick matchsticks. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 minutes then drain and pat dry.
Heat the oil in a wok or heavy-based pan. Add the peppercorns and chillies and stir for a couple of minutes until you can smell the aroma of pepper. Add the ginger, rice wine vinegar and sugar, stirring while it comes to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the cucumbers and soy and remove from the heat. Stir to combine and allow to cool before serving. This pickle will improve with flavour overnight and can be stored in the fridge, covered, for about two weeks.
Beautifully fragrant and delicate, this is great with Chinese roast pork or duck. Just add steamed jasmine rice and Asian greens for an easy dinner, or try it with barbecued beef or chicken.