Cucumbers in a stir fry? Surprising, isn’t it? Most people think of cucumber as a vegetable eaten either in raw or pickled form, or even processed to make drinks, but never cooked. I used to think that way too.
But cucumber is more versatile that you may think. Yes, stir frying cucumber works. It’s all in the preperation. Draw out the excess liquid from the cucumber by tossing it with salt and letting it sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze and its ready for stir frying. See a vegan cucumber stir fry in the recipe archive.
It might sound like extra work to salt the cucumber but if you skip this step, the cucumber slices will be too watery to stir fry. They will be soggy by the time the dish is done.
The cucumber in this recipe follows the same preparation. While salt draws out the excess water from the cucumber, season the pork so it can marinate at the same time. Add bird’s eye chilies, garlic, ginger, shallot, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine and sesame seed oil, mix thoroughly and leave to allow the meat to soak up the flavors.
Again, it might sound like marinating ground pork is unnecessary. After all, the meat is cut into such small pieces that it will soak up anything during cooking. You might think… Why not just add all the spices and seasonings during the actual cooking? But it really doesn’t work that way.
It’s all about chemistry. When the meat is allowed to sit in salt (boy soy sauce and fish sauce are salt-based), it undergoes a chemical reaction and the texture of the meat changes. Fibers break down making it ultra tender. So, marinate.
Ground pork and cucumber stir fry
- 1 large cucumber halved, deseeded and cut into half-inch slices
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ kilogram ground pork with at least 20% fat for best results
- 2 bird’s eye chilies finely chop one piece and thinly slice the other
- 1 shallot peeled; finely chop half and thinly slice the other half
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 half-inch knob ginger peeled and grated
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce divided
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine (I used mirin)
- ¼ teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- ½ cup bone broth
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
- Peel the cucumber in portions (optional), cut in half lengthwise and scrape off the seeds.
- Cut the cucumber into half-inch slices, place in a bowl and sprinkle in the salt. Toss thoroughly. Cover the bowl and leave the cucumber slices to soak for 30 minutes.
- Place the ground pork in a bowl. Add the chopped chili and shallot, garlic, ginger, one teaspoon soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine and sesame seed oil. Mix well. Cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- When the soaking time for the cucumber slices is up, strain then squeeze out as much liquid as you can without breaking the cucumber slices.
- In a small bowl, stir together the bone broth, the remaining soy sauce and starch.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok (this is stir frying so keep the heat on high at all times). Swirl the wok to coat as much surface as possible.
- Spread the marinated ground pork on the hot oil. Do not disturb for about half a minute. Then, stir to break up lumps. Stir fry the pork until lightly browned.
- Add the reserved shallot to the pork. Continue stir frying until the shallot slices are limp.
- Add the cucumber slices to the pork and stir fry for half a minute.
- Stir the broth-starch solution again to make sure that the starch has not settled in the bottom of the bowl. Pour into the wok, stirring to incorporate. Continue cooking until the sauce is thick and clear.
- Transfer the cucumber and ground pork stir fry to a serving platter. Garnish with the reserved chili. Serve at once. Best with rice.