It's been about four years since I first sauteed a cucumber and I can safely say, I have not returned to that recipe. There's a much better return to this one from Grace Young's The Breath of a Wok. The green vegetable is paired with thinly sliced pork and red bell pepper. It's the kind of humble, straightforward Chinese dish that I've been falling in love with recently.
Thanks to the fermented black beans, the result is funky, salty fun. Each bite tastes meatier than you'd expect, and the peppers add a nice crunch. How about the cucumbers? Well, they worked, especially when you can manage to chopstick up a slice with a bite of pork. There is no spice to speak of but drizzling Chinese chili oil will add a nice finish.
- 12 ounces lean pork butt, cut into 1/4-inch-thick bite-sized slices
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
- 1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 3 tablespoons chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the pork, rice wine, cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. In a second bowl, mash the fermented black beans.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until it begins to smoke. Swirl in one tablespoon of the canola oil, and when it begins to smoke, add the garlic and pork. Cook undisturbed until pork begins to brown, about 20 seconds. Add the mashed fermented black beans. Cook, stirring often, until pork is browned but still a little rare, one to two minutes. Transfer mixture to a plate.
Swirl in the remaining one tablespoon of canola oil. When smoking, add the cucumber and red bell pepper strips. Stir-fry the vegetables until they start to soften, two to three minutes. Add the pork mixture to the work, along with the broth, sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir-fry for one minute. Serve with white rice.