5 April 2011

Chicken with cucumbers (ji chao huangguarding)

home-preserved chillies Hunan-style - 
just chopped red chillies and a pantagruelian salt portion!

It think it's pretty clear from recent posts that I've got a lot of love for Fuscia Dunlop's Sichuan Cooking. But my enthusiasm for Szechuan (and Hunanese) food knows no bounds at the moment so I also picked up from Amazon's new-and-used section Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook by Ellen Shrecker and the eponymous Mrs. Jung-Feng Chiang and The Good Food of Szechwan by Robert A. Delfs. The former is quite good whilst the latter I would not recommend purchasing.

Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook contains lots of classic dishes from the region, plus a few extra that aren't in FD's book like lion-head meatballs and some simple stir-fry combos like this cucumber and chicken one. The layout is slightly vexing, with the ingredients listed alongside the cooking directions so you have to scan the whole thing to get a sense of what's actually in it. But I think it's got potential to augment if not supplant Sichuan Cooking. (As an aside, the spelling 'Szechuan' is favoured in these two older American texts, whilst elsewhere you see 'Sichuan'. I have uses the former option is I think it looks nice with the zed, but I'm not sure how good a reason that is. I guess there is no clear transliteration.)

Cooking cucumber has certainly been one of the revelations of getting into Szechuan food. So I liked the look of this simple recipe - chicken stir-fried with cucumbers and some classic flavourings of the region. 

If you want to try the home salted chillies at the top of the page just chop some fresh red Indian type chillies and pour quite a lot of salt on to them (maybe 5-7% of their weight). Give them two weeks to mature. They might need a quick rinse to get some salt of before going into the food.
  • 1/3 cucumber per person
  • one chicken breast per person
  • two spring-onions per person
  • five cloves of garlic per person
  • Shaoxing wine, cornflour, pickled chilli, soy sauce, sugar, salt

    Slice the chicken and spring onion into similar sized pieces. You can see the size I went for, although the more authentic version in the book is based on quite small pieces. Marinade with the Shaoxing wine, a large dash of light soy sauce, pickled chilli, a pinch of sugar and another of salt, and a sprinkle of magic thickening dust for thirty minutes or so.

    Cut the cucumber into similar size pieces after eviscerating it with a teaspoon. Sprinkle with salt and leave to express its liquid if you have time. Otherwise just use as it is: I've often done this without any problems.

    Fry the cucumber for a couple of minutes to break the rawness and set to one side. Reheat the oil and add the garlic. Fry for thirty seconds. Add the chicken and spring-onion mixture and fry until it's cooked (only a few minutes). Tip the cucumbers back in and bring it back to full heat. Put in another slosh of soy sauce if you fancy. Serve.

    there's some noodles under here, honest guv

    It's quite a mild one this. You might not be satisfied if you're looking for a hot and fat chilli blast or associated numbing. But the ingredients definitely combine to make something more than the sum of their parts - something almost sweet and undoubtedly moreish.


    1. This has reminded me of having stir fried cucumber when I was in China but I've never actually made it at home. I love the freshness that a lot of real Chinese dishes have.

    2. Thanks for commenting Corina. I had never cooked the two together before but I like the crunch of the cucumber so will try again..

    3. To me, this is comfort food. Many recipes from this book are so good. I also love Grand Duke's Peanuts, Cabbage and Pork shreads, Ants climbing trees, and MaPo bean curd. Mmmmmmmmm.