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 cooking chili ground pork and cucumber stir fry.
Cucumbers in a stir fry? Surprising, isn’t it? But, yes, it works. Salty meat, sweet cucumber slices, heat from the chilies and a thickish sauce. It’s so simple to make but the combination of spices and seasonings will make you feel there’s a celebration going on inside your mouth.
Why cucumbers? We had a lonely cucumber in the fridge, there were no other vegetables to go with it to make a decent salad so I browsed around for ideas and found something on Serious Eats about letting cucumbers sit in salt to draw out the liquid to make it stir fry friendly.
Of course, it makes sense. We do that to potatoes when making fries, to ampalaya (bitter gourd) to remove the bitterness and we occasionally do the same with zucchini when we want to cook it in a stir fry. Why not cucumbers?
So, I went ahead with the prepping. I partially peeled the cucumber (yeah, I left some of the skin for visual contrast), split it in half lengthwise and scooped out the seeds. I cut the cucumebr halves into half-inch slices, dumped them in a bowl and sprinkled in a teaspoon of salt. I tossed them all together and left them to soak.
Then, I prepped the meat. Three indispensable seasonings—soy sauce, patis (fish sauce) and rice wine. Only two spices are required—chilies and garlic. But I went ahead and added chopped shallot and ginger anyway. Because I like shallots. And ginger.
The sauce is optional. But if you like to drizzle sauce in your rice, make the sauce a must. The chili ground pork and cucumber stir fry is just delicious with a bit of sauce.
Chili Ground Pork and Cucumber Stir Fry
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 kilogram ground pork with at least 20% fat for best results
- 2 bird's eye chilies
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 half-inch knob ginger
- 1 shallot
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce divided
- 1 teaspoon patis (fish sauce)
- 1 tablespoon rice wine (I used mirin)
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1/2 cup bone broth
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or corn starch
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.
Take one chili, finely chop and add to the pork. Finely slice the other chili and set aside.
Peel and mince the garlic. Add to the pork.
Peel and grate the ginger. Add to the pork.
Peel the shallot and cut into two. Finely chop one portion and add to the pork. Thinly slice the remaining half and set aside.
To the pork and spices in the bowl, add 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 chili ground pork and cucumber stir fry to a serving platter. Garnish with the reserved chili. Serve at once. Best with rice.