Jian HuangGua – Fried Cucumber, Hunan Style

Jian HuangGua

In a previous post, I already talked about the ability of Chinese cooking to tease out wonderful flavors, to work with salt, sugar and fat to produce impressively tasty dishes. (Coming to think of it, it’s been in two posts already, …)

One of the dishes I mentioned was fried cucumber, so I thought that it would be time for a little cooking instruction. (Calling it a recipe seems a bit odd to me, as Chinese cooking tends to work by principles and feeling, not exact instructions.)

This is one of the dishes I find rather fascinating. After all, we know cucumbers, whether raw in salad or pickled as gherkins – but not as the main ingredient of a cooked dish.

And then, this idea: frying cucumber. Full of water as they are, it sounds a bit as if I suggested frying water… and as I hope you know, that sort of thing isn’t a good idea, adding water to hot oil is great only for causing burns or setting a kitchen on fire, which is not the kind of ‘burn’ the ChilliLab wants you to produce).

But, it works. And it’s tasty.

Here’s how to do it:

What you need is one cucumber; the kind used for salads. Cut it into (more or less) thin slices. (In our sample above, they were about 1/3 to 1/2 an inch thick; cucumber also gets fried together with eel, in which case it should be sliced much thinner)

By and by, fry these cucumber slices in hot oil, turning, until browned on both sides. To the last batch, add some chopped green chilli pepper (of the Chinese type), if you like it spicier. You can also add a few leaves of akashiso (red shiso).

Add a bit of water, salt to taste (but rather well), put in a bit of granulated chicken bouillon (to add/replace MSG, if wanted to enhance the flavors further). Put all the cucumber slices that you already fried back into the pan, stir to cover all in salty water and mix them with the chilli, plus to get it all warmed again.

Put on a plate, on the table; one dish done.

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