In Sichuan cooking, balance between heat and cold is essential. A typical feast will start with milder dishes like vegetables and cold noodles, and as the meal progresses so will the heat and spice level of the dishes served. In between courses, pickled cucumbers are often served to cool the palate. While there are chilis in the pickling liquid, the coolness of the cucumber offsets the heat and offers a delectable contrast to the heat. This dish goes well with rich dishes like congee and dry roasted chicken. They also make for fun, if not slightly unusual snacks.
- 3 English cucumbers
- 3 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 1½ teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 dried chili peppers (de-seeded and sliced thinly)
- 1 tbsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
- Rinse off the cucumbers and wipe them dry. Trim off both ends, and cut each cucumber into 4 equal sections. Cut each section into 6 equal-sized strips.
- Transfer to a bowl and add ½ teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- At the same time, make the sauce by combining the remaining sugar and salt with the Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, bay leaves, garlic, chili peppers, and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir and make sure the sugar and salt are completed dissolved.
- Once the cucumber has marinated for 1 hour in the fridge, drain the liquid from the bowl they were sitting in. Add the sauce and mix everything well. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.