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Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce photo

Chef: fluvius

  • serves 2
  • cook time 15 minutes

This exceptionally quick and easy dish was a favorite of mine at the now demolished and much-missed Bamboo Bar, a small restaurant just outside the Sichuan University campus. The serving girls there, who lodged like sardines in the attic at the top of the old wooden building, used to mix up the seasonings behind the counter, taking spoonfuls of garnet-red chilli oil and dark soy sauce from the bowls in the glass cabinet beside them and tossing the cucumber in the piquant sauce. The combination of seasonings, known as “garlic paste flavor” (suan ni wei), is a Sichuanese classic, with its garlicky pungency and undercurrent of sweetness: the same sauce may be used to dress fresh fava beans, thinly sliced cooked pork (perhaps mixed with fine slivers of carrot and Asian radish), boiled pork dumplings or wontons, and many other ingredients. You may use sweet, aromatic soy sauce instead of light soy sauce if you have it in stock.

The cucumber is smacked before cutting to loosen its flesh and help it absorb the flavors of the sauce. Try not to smash it into smithereens!

A sweet-and-sour sauce for smacked cucumber
A lovely variation. Smack, cut and salt the cucumber as in the main recipe, but dress it with the following seasonings: ½ tsp salt, 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar, 1 tsp light soy sauce and, if you fancy a bit of heat, 2 tbsp chilli oil.

(Source: Every Grain of Rice, by Fuchsia Dunlop)


  • 2 tbsp - chili oil
  • 1/2 tsp - Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 - cucumber
  • 1 tbsp - garlic finely chopped
  • 1 pinch - ground roasted Sichuan pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp - light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp - salt
  • 1/2 tsp - sugar


Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it hard a few times with the flat blade of a Chinese cleaver or with a rolling pin. Then cut it, lengthways, into four pieces. Hold your knife at an angle to the chopping board and cut the cucumber on the diagonal into ?–? in (½–1cm) slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix well and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl.

Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir well and serve immediately.


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