Confessions of a Cowardly Chinese Chef - Episode 2
I talked about this series to my Taiwanese friend, and she said that I should be ashamed of myself for labeling myself as a Chinese chef when I am indeed, a Taiwanese chef. So as a disclaimer, I am very proud of my Taiwanese heritage, and if anyone wants to come up with a new name for this series, let me know.
I should have made some more dishes in January when I had a bit more time, but it actually hasn’t been that hard to find the time to cook! I do feel more confident cooking, even though nothing I’ve made has been that complicated. In fact, there are days when I look forward to eating at home more than I do going out to eat! (Not the same for when I decide I need to save money and make my coffee at home. I definitely enjoy going out to get coffee more than I do making it at home.)
This month my goal was to make…
No, not Din Tai Fung soup dumplings (at the original location, no less!) – but do you see that cucumber dish to the right of the glorious dumplings? That was the highlight of the meal for me. No, I’m serious! I love this sort of cold cucumber appetizer dish – they’re crunchy, salty, slightly vinegar-y, and I can eat too many at one time if I don’t watch myself.
In Chinese, I think the cucumbers that are used are called 小黃瓜 (little yellow melon), which you would think are just cucumbers, but like all things, there are many different types of cucumbers. (Just like there are many different type of red pepper, which I learned when I tried to make soondubu with regular chili powder and realized that is a very poor substitute.) I picked up a container of Persian cucumbers from Trader Joes because they were small and I guess Persia is sort of Asian? That might be a very ignorant comment but the point is that these cucumbers worked a lot better than I think the regular big cucumbers would have worked. English cucumbers, I think they’re called. I think these Persian cucumbers have less water and seem thicker, so they don’t break down as easily.
I asked my mom how she makes it, and she said it was simple – just add salt, 抓一抓 (grab it a little), then let sit for half an hour at least. After that, just season to taste! The first time I added a little rice vinegar and soy sauce.
And that was it! So easy. Lately I’ve been just using salt, since I feel like that is enough to season the cucumbers, but I can see that adding on soy sauce or even chili oil (like the Din Tai Fung ones) right before serving could be good too.
I don’t think this is quite considered “pickling” but it reminds me of the pickled carrots and jalapenos that you can put on top of tacos. Maybe these cucumbers would taste good on top of some sort of Chinese fusion taco?