Stir-Fried Cucumbers with Hot Spices

A traditional dish from western China, this stir fried cucumber recipe is bursting with flavour. Garlic and chilli contrasts beautifully with the crisp cucumber.

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Complete Chinese Cookbook
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I am always surprised to see people eating cucumbers raw! We Chinese almost never eat them like this. If they are not pickled then they must be cooked. We prefer them when they are in season, young, tender and bursting with juice. This is a simple stir-fried cucumber dish from western China. Once the ingredients are assembled, it is very quick to cook. The chilli and garlic contrast well with the cool, crisp cucumber. Once you get into the habit of cooking cucumbers, you will be delighted by their transformation into a true vegetable.

Serves 4


675g (1½lb) cucumbers (about 1½)
salt and black pepper
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1½ tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp black beans, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce
2 tsp sugar
120ml (4fl oz) water
2 tsp sesame oil


Peel the cucumbers, slice them in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Then cut the cucumber halves into 2.5cm (1in) cubes. Sprinkle them with 2 teaspoons of salt and mix well, then put into a colander and leave for about 20 minutes to drain. This rids the cucumber of any excess liquid. When the cucumber cubes have drained, rinse them in water and blot them dry with kitchen paper.

Heat a wok or a large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic, black beans, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the cucumbers, chilli bean sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper and stir for another 30 seconds, until they are well coated with the spices and flavourings, then add the water and continue to stir-fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated and the cucumbers are cooked through. At this point, add the sesame oil and bring to the table immediately.

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