Cucumber Salad, Sichuan-Style
3 or 4 servings
30 minutes, largely unattended
Refreshing, bright and buzzing with Sichuan peppercorns and chile, this dish bears no resemblance to the cucumber salads of my youth (and it's pretty perfect).
1 pound cucumbers
About 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno or other hot chile, or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice or rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
1. If the cucumbers are seedy (you’ll know as soon as you cut into one), cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. (If they’re not seedy, don’t!) Chop the cucumbers; I like ½-inch or slightly bigger pieces. Put them in a colander or strainer and sprinkle with the salt and sugar; toss a bit and let sit for 20 or 30 minutes.
2. Grind the peppercorns in a spice grinder. (If you have a spice grinder that can handle it, add the garlic and chile, too.) Otherwise, mince the garlic and chile and combine with the peppercorns.
3. When the cucumbers look darker and slightly shriveled, toss the colander a few times to remove as much liquid as possible that’s clinging to them. (You don’t have to rinse; if anything, you’ll wind up adding salt.) Put them in a bowl and add all the other ingredients except cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve - room temperature is best.