By popular demand from our guests at our April supper club, we are releasing our recipes for our salads that accompanied our dumplings. Starting first, with ‘pai huang gua’ or smashed cucumber salad.
Clare first found this recipe at a chain noodle restaurant just next to Changchun train station in the North of China.
The restaurant was called ‘California beef noodle king USA’ and did ‘xiao chi’ (小吃） or small snacks for travellers about to embark on long journeys across China. This introduced Clare to the idea that cucumber could be served this way.
It was later at a small noodle hut off the main shopping street on Guilin road which pushed Clare to get the recipe to make it at home.
People across China make this dish in many ways, adjusting the flavour toward the preference of spices in their regions. Sichuan peppercorns are sometimes added for a numb feel, garlic and sugar are favoured up north, and from household to household the seasoning gets saltier or sweeter. This is why we haven’t put exact measurements for the ingredients below; we think it is better to taste as you go for your own personal preference.
拍黄瓜 Pai Huang Gua (smashed cucumber salad)
For 8-10 guests
- 3 cucumbers
- Salt and Sugar
- black rice vinegar (available from any well-stocked Chinese supermarket)
- light soy sauce
- sesame oil (toasted)
- chilli oil with flakes (available from any well-stocked Chinese supermarket)
- crushed garlic cloves (approx 4)
- Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Leave skin on. Cut in half vertically. Cut each cucumber into 3 pieces horizontally.
- Place the pieces of cucumber cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife (we use a cleaver) flat on top the cucumber and smash down with your other hand (basically whack it). The skin will break, the flesh will break down and the seeds will separate. Repeat until the whole piece is smashed. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind.
- This step is not needed if you like a watery sauce with the cucumbers. *** Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with a big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar. Place something heavy on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and place the strainer over a bowl. Let drain 15 to 30 minutes on the counter, or in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and rice vinegar, smashed garlic, chilli flakes in oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Keep building up this flavour until you have it as sour, sweet, spicy or as salty as you like.
- When ready to serve, shake cucumbers well to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve immediately, garnished with coriander and toasted sesame seeds.