Yep, we're still "veggin' out......" Here's another recent vegetable dish. I'm always on the look-out for something a bit different, perhaps the use of an ingredient that I'm familiar with, but had never thought of using in a type of cuisine. I saw a recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's tome on Hunan cookery, The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, that caught my attention because it used Perilla. The original recipe uses zǐ sū (紫苏), purple perilla, but the only perilla I could find in the quantity I wanted and in good shape was Korean Perilla, which I substituted for purple perilla. What little info I could find on the use of Perilla in Chinese cuisine was a reference to Perilla Leaf Porridge as a remedy for common colds, and its many medicinal uses.
This turned out to be a remarkable dish. The cleansing flavor of the cucumber, along with the spice of dried chilies and chili oil (substituted for fresh chilies), the salty umami of soy sauce, along with a touch of sour from the clear Chinese rice vinegar. The vinegar also added a bit of sweetness to which I added a touch of sugar(my own addition), sesame oil added a nice rich nuttiness to the dish, which was all wrapped up with a good amount of minty-anise-herbaceous perilla, which really cut through the spice.
In her book Fuchsia Dunlap calls the cooking method used for this dish as "jian", pan-frying, versus "chao", stir-frying. And indeed to get the best result, you begin by laying the cucumber in a single layer in the wok to attain a nice golden color. Be aware that the yield is about 60% of what you started with.
As usual, I've taken a few liberties with the recipe.
Pan Fried Cucumber with Perilla
1 Large English Cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise, seeded, and cut crosswise into 1/4" slices
3-4 Cloves fo garlic chopped
2 tsp Premium quality light soy sauce
1-2 tsp Clear Chinese Rice vinegar
1/2 tsp white sugar
2 dried chilies deseeded
1 Tb Chili Oil w/flakes
1/3 Cup of perilla leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 tsp Sesame Oil
3 Tb peanut oil
- Heat wok over high heat until smoking
- Add oil and swirl around wok. Add dried chilies and scald, but do not burn.
- Add the cucumber slices in a single layer around the wok and fry until the cucumber slices start turning golden brown
- Turn cucumber slices as necessary.
- Once slices start developing color, add sugar, garlic, and chili oil, and stir fry.
- When dish becomes fragrant, splash in soy sauce and vinegar, and mix well.
- Remove from heat and mix in perilla leaves. Stir in sesame oil and serve.