Yes, cucumber can be stir fried! Sprinkle with salt, rinse and drain to remove excess water before cooking this delicious vegan shiitake and cucumber stir fry.
Not so long ago, the only ways I knew how to prep cucumbers were to add them to vegetable salad and puree them to make either an agua fresca or a minted cooler. Then, early in 2018, I discovered that cucumbers can be stir fried. Imagine that. Who knew that such a watery vegetable could withstand cooking in extremely high heat?
Ever since, whenever I come across an inspiring recipe that includes stir frying cucumbers, I jump at the opportunity to make my version. The Japanese recipe that inspired this one had pork but since I was going to serve my version as a side dish to fried fish, I decided to ditch the meat and make a vegan version.
First, prep the cucumbers. You don’t need to peel them but if you want your cooked shiitake and cucumber stir fry to look prettier, you may peel the cucumber partially. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin at half inch intervals so that the outside of the cucumbers sport a striped appearance. Entirely optional, like I said.
Cut the cucumbers into halves lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon then slice the flesh into half-inch pieces.
Place the sliced cucumbers in a bowl, sprinkle liberally with salt, toss and leave to soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Soaking the cucumbers in salt will make them expel water.
While your cucumbers soak, cut off the stems of the mushrooms and discard. Cut the caps into quarters or, if they are really large, you may opt to slice them.
Peel the garlic and chop.
With the mushrooms and garlic ready for the wok, rinse the cucumbers well then drain.
Now the stir frying begins. Heat up about a tablespoonful of sesame seed oil and stir fry the shiitake for about two minutes with a little bit of salt and pepper.
Add the cucumbers to the mushrooms and sprinkle in the garlic. Stir fry for a minute. Pour in the rice wine and continue stir frying until the liquid has evaporated.
And that’s it! Isn’t that simple? And don’t let the meagre amount of ingredients fool you into thinking that this vegan dish couldn’t be flavorful at all! It is very tasty and highly aromatic too.
You may serve the shiitake and cucumber stir fry in one serving platter or you may divide it equally into individual bowls.
And, for added aroma and texture, a bit of toasted sesame seeds go a long way.
Shiitake and Cucumber Stir Fry
Optionally, peel the cucumbers. Cut off the both ends and discard.
Halve the cucumbers and scrape off the seeds with a teaspoon.
Cut the deseeded cucumber halves into half inch slices.
Dump the cucumber slices into a bowl and sprinkle with a tablespoon of rock salt. Toss well. Leave to soak while you prep the mushrooms and garlic.
Cut off the mushroom stems and discard. Cut the caps into slices or quarters. What the shape should be is entirely up to you.
Peel the garlic, smash and chop.
Rinse the cucumber slices well and drain. Optionally, pass through a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible.
Heat the sesame seed oil in a wok or frying pan.
Throw in the mushrooms and sprinkle with about a quarter teaspoon of salt and pepper. Stir fry for about two minutes.
Add the cucumber slices and garlic. Stir fry for a minute.
Pour in the rice wine. Continue stir frying until the there's very little liquid left in the wok or frying pan.
Transfer the shiitake and cucumber stir fry to a platter or individual bowls. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.
If using dried shiitake, soak in warm water for 20 minutes or longer to rehydrate before cutting. The exact soaking time depends on the size of the mushrooms, specifically, the thickness of the caps.
This shiitake and cucumber stir fry is based on a recipe from NHK World-Japan.