There is a dish that I always order when I visit Silk Road restaurant in Camberwell. The main ingredient is cucumber. Yes cucumber folks. I think they even call the dish ‘cucumber salad’. Doesn’t sound that appealing does it at first glance, but let me assure you that cucumber that has been delicately softened or rather smashed with a small ‘s’, then doused in Chinkiang vinegar, soy sauce and sichuan pepper marinade elevates the humble cucumber to something quite extraordinary.
It is quick to rustle together and is the perfect snack when you have the munchies or if you want to accompany it with perhaps Chinese spiced roast pork or chicken, ginger and spring onion jiaozi or dan dan noodles. Give it a go next time you find a cucumber lurking in your fridge. Chinkiang vinegar (also known as Chinese black rice vinegar) you can get at the larger supermarkets, or you can get online here . Sichuan peppercorns can also be found here.
I adore the different textures and tastes dancing around on my tongue. Sichuan pepper is seriously addictive – in a good way, so it is worth sourcing it if you can.
Softened Cucumber with Chinkiang Vinegar, Sichuan Pepper and Red Peanuts
1 cucumber, bashed lightly with a rolling pin
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
1 tsp salt
50g red peanuts
- Using a rolling pin gently bash the cucumber so that it begins to soften slightly. The reason for doing this is to create a slightly softer texture which will then absorb all the delicious flavours of the marinade more easily.
- Cut the cucumber lengthways and halve it again and then cut it on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl add all the other ingredients, aside from the red peanuts, and stir so that they are all mixed together well. Add a little more sugar or salt as needed.
- Place the red peanuts into the cucumber bowl and then add the marinade and throughly mix it together so that the cucumber is fully coated with it.
You can prepare this ahead of time or eat it immediately.