An easy dish with a garlicky pungency and undercurrent of sweetness.
1 cucumber (about 300g)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
2 tbsp chilli oil
A pinch or two of ground roasted Sichuan pepper
Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it hard a few times with the flat blade of a Chinese cleaver or with a rolling pin. Then cut it, lengthways, into four pieces. Hold your knife at an angle to the chopping board and cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1/2–1cm slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix well and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl. Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir well and serve immediately.
A sweet-and-sour sauce for smacked cucumber: A lovely variation. Smack, cut and salt the cucumber as in the main recipe, but dress it with the following seasonings: 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic, 2 tsp caster sugar, 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar, 1 tsp light soy sauce and, if you fancy a bit of heat, 2 tbsp chilli oil.
Smacked cucumber with sesame and preserved mustard greens: For a nutty, savoury flavour, smack, cut and salt the cucumber as in the main recipe, but dress it with the following seasonings: 2 tbsp Sichuan preserved mustard greens (ya cai), 1 tsp finely chopped garlic, 1 tbsp runny sesame paste, 1 1/2 tsp clear rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil and salt to taste.
From Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop published by Bloomsbury ($55).