Until the age of 6, I had never eaten raw unpickled cucumbers. Like everyone else in my Cantonese family, I ate cucumbers only in stir-fries, never imagining that they could be served any other way. So it was a shock in the elementary school cafeteria to find that Americans eat this thing called a salad, with itty bitty pieces of raw unseasoned cucumber, mixed with equally bland raw carrots and iceberg lettuce. I’ll admit. It took me a few years to get used to raw cucumbers, especially when the accompaniment was Thousand Island dressing.
Lately I’ve rediscovered the joys of stir-fried cucumbers. They’re sauce sponges, soaking up the best flavors of whatever meat or liquid they’re cooked with. The best kind to use for stir-frying are Chinese cucumbers, also called Asian or Peking cucumbers, the long skinny ones with a bumpy outside. They tend to be more crisp, though other varieties would also work.
In this pork stir-fry, you just need to cook the meat, set it aside, and briefly stir-fry and steam the vegetables for a few minutes. If you have extra pieces left over, make a Sichuan cucumber salad.
Other Chinese pork recipes:
Pork and Cucumber Stir-fry
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
4 to 5 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 red onion
1/2 pound lean pork
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice cucumber into 2-inch long segments, then quarter the segments length-wise. Thinly slice shiitake mushrooms and red onion. Thinly slice the pork.
Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry pork until cooked and no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.
Stir-fry garlic and ginger until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add cucumbers, shiitake mushrooms, and onions and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in rice wine, soy sauce, and sugar. Add water, cover the wok with a lid, and let the vegetables steam for 3 to 4 more minutes. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper.
Once the liquid has been reduced to sauce-like consistency, uncover the wok and return pork to the wok. Cook for another 30 seconds, then serve.