Is this a raw salad? The cucumber slices are raw but everything else is cooked including the dressing.
What goes into the dressing? Here’s a rundown of all the ingredients.
Wood ears. Use fresh or dried. If using dried, you will need to soak them in warm water for an hour or so to rehydrate. They will also need to be trimmed then cooked shortly in boiling water. If you need more details on how identify the edible and non-edible parts of wood ears, and how to prepare them, see below.
Cucumber. Peel off the skin or not, or just partially peel the skin for a more interesting appearance. The seeds have to be scraped off and discarded. How the flesh is cut is up to you. Julienne or simply slice. I cut the cucumber into halves vertically before slicing.
Scallions. Because the scallions were sauteed, I used only the white and light green portions. The dark green portion of the leaves would have just wilted during sauteeing so I left them out.
Chilies. Bird’s eye chilies were used here. Two pieces. And the salad was super hot. If your tolerance for heat is not that high, just use one chili or even half of a chili.
Fresh wood ears are used here but you can always substitute dried. If using dried wood ears, you’ll need a cup which has to be soaked in warm water for an hour or so before trimming and cutting.
But whether using fried or rehydrated wood ears, you will need to cook them in boiling water before using for the salad.
The cooked dressing is made by first frying sesame seeds in sesame seed oil (can you imagine the lovely aroma?) before throwing in scallions and chilies. Now that the “spicy” factor is in the pan, balance the heat with sweet, salty and sour by adding sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cook until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Cool the dressing completely before tossing with the wood ears and cucumber slices. If you want to hurry up the process, take the pan with the dressing and place in a bowl of ice. Pour water into the bowl so that the bottom half of the pan is submerged in cold water. Stir the dressing for a few minutes until cool.
Full recipe below
Wood ears and cucumber salad
- 2 cups fresh wood ears - trimmed
- 1 cucumber
- Cut the trimmed wood ears into half-inch wide slices.
- Boil abut four cups water in a pot, drop in the wood ears and cook for a minute.
- Pour the wood ears into a strainer and leave to allow excess water to drip off.
- Cut the cucumber into halves vertically, scrape off the seeds and discard.
- Thinly slice the cucumber.
- Pour the sesame seed oil into a small pan and heat.
- Add the sesame seeds and spread so that every piece touches the hot oil.
- Cook over medium heat for about 20 seconds or until one or two pieces pop (they will likely fly out of the pan).
- Add the scallions and chilies, stir and cook for half a minute.
- Sprinkle in the sugar.
- Pour in the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.
- Cook until bubbly and the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Cool the dressing for about ten minutes.
- Place the wood ears and cucumber slices in a mixing bowl.
- Pour in the dressing, toss and serve.