My mother has made these cucumbers for as long as I can remember. Well, that's not exactly true. As far as I can recall, my best friend Mark's family introduced me to a northern Chinese restaurant in Rockville, MD called A&J Restaurant (thanks guys!) when I was in high school, where I first tried a version of these cucumbers. Soon after I went for the first time I took Mom there and she has been making these cucumbers ever since. They showed up on the Thanksgiving dinner table several times. They used to make their way into my lunches in high school. And yes, my mother still packed me lunch until my senior year of high school. Make fun of me if you will, but I thought it was a pretty sweet deal. As much as I loved the Sichuan cucumbers when they showed up in my lunchbox, they did have a habit of making an oily mess of things if the tupperware sprung a leak (which happened numerous times). That's ok. It was well worth it.
This is my version of my mother's recipe. I changed it a bit to get a bit more sweetness and a bit more garlic. I also modified it to use Korean ssamjang paste because we are out of Sichuan hot bean paste. But give it a shot! I love it. I hope you will too.
Recipe after the jump!
1 English cucumber, cut in half and then cut into 2-inch long spears
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
1 tsp hot bean paste
1 tbsp hot chili oil (the oil we used is chili-flavored sesame oil - you can also make your own chili oil by heating peanut oil, Sichuan peppercorns and dried Thai chilis in a pan and then allowing it to cool)
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Place cucumber spears in colander suspended over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Allow the cucumbers to stand in bowl and release water. Allow cucumbers to drain for 2-3 hours.
Rinse cucumbers thoroughly with cold water and then pat dry.
Place drained cucumbers in a large non-reactive mixing bowl. Add garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, hot bean paste, hot chili oil, sugar, vinegar & sesame oil. Mix thoroughly. Cover cucumbers and allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving. The longer the cucumbers sit in the chili oil in the fridge, the spicier they will become.