|Stir fried cucumber and beef|
Stir frying cucumber— :)) I guess you might be frowning. Well, it is true, this dish does have stir-fried cucumber. And it is not any particular kind of cucumber, it is just the normal cucumbers that you would use in a salad. :)
I think this is probably one of those vegetables, such as salad leaves, which Chinese people use both for salad and for stir frying. which make it very different to western food. In Chinese cuisine, (or northern Chinese cuisine, to be more precise), cucumber can be made into salad (liangcai), or stir-fried, or even in soup (the famous hot-sour soup uses cucumber as one of its main ingredients).
But cucumbers in China are so different from the ones here in UK. Firstly, the package. Before coming here, I had never seen any cucumbers wrapped and sold individually. In China, it is very important to see the actual skin of the cucumber before buying it, because the skin can tell if the cucumber is fresh or not.
Second, Western cucumbers are thicker than those in China. We normally don’t tend to buy thick cucumbers , because they might not be fresh. If you ever go to a vegetable market in China, you would hear the vendors shout, ‘fresh cucumbers, wearing yellow flowers on the tip, and with thorns on the body!’ Ha… well, in Chinese, it sounds much shorter and rhythmic. :)) Wearing yellow flowers on the tip, and with thorns on the body is one of the commonest judgement for the freshness of the cucumber.
Cucumber in Northern China is called ‘Huang gua‘, as ‘Yellow gourd’.
I have already written a couple of posts about cucumbers in salad/ liangcai. In this post, I am talking about cooking cucumber in a ‘hot’ dish. Cucumber can be cooked with quite a few things, but among them, eggs and beef are probably the most popular ones.
Having beef and cucumber together in a dish might sound strange, but it is one of the most common, popular homemade dishes in Northern China. And the combination of the two ingredients will surprise you — the ‘juice’ from the beef will influence the cucumber, and the freshness of cucumber will influence beef, actually it will even mask its ‘greasy’ ‘meaty’ taste. Oh, I am running out the words to describe it. Anyway, I got thumbs up when I cooked for ‘him’ and other friends.
It is not a fancy dish, rather a typical homey one. It is easy to make, not much preparation time, nor cooking time — with cucumber, if you still want to keep the freshness, it cannot be cooked for long anyway.
Here you go.
Cucumber (2/3 of a whole), beef (I use beef, but pork is also ok, around 200gm)
Ginger, garlic, oil, cooking wine, light soy sauce, salt, MSG/vegetable/chicken/mushroom essence (optional)
1) Chop the beef into thin slices (as thin as possible, so it will be easy to cook later).
2) Chop the cucumber diagonally into thin slices.
|Chopping the beef|
3) Chop a small piece of ginger into thin strips, and 2 garlic gloves into slices.
1) In a heated wok, add in around 3 tablespoons of oil.
2) When the oil is hot, add in beef slices, stir fry well.
|Stir frying the beef|
3) When the beef is half way done, add in chopped ginger and garlic. (I forgot to take picture at this stage, sorry).
4) Then before the beef is done, add in cucumber slices.
|Adding in the cucumbers|
5) Then add in 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, (btw, I really like the influence of the cooking wine in the wok), a bit more than 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of MSG/vegetable/chicken/mushroom essence (optional). Allow cucumber releases some juice out and absorb the sauce from the beef and seasonings. Stir-fry everything well.
Easy no? If there is too much sauce in the wok, you can add corn flour mix to thicken the sauce before taking the food to the serving plate. Oh, the very critical thing is the whole cooking is the beef slice is well done, but still very soft. And the cucumber slices are supposed to be just softened a little bit, never too soft.
It goes well with boiled plain rice or beer. :)