When I was 19 or so, my parents went on a trip to China and I went with them. In my fuzzy memory, it happened very quickly: one day my mom asked me if I wanted to go to Asia, and then next we were on a plane headed to Shanghai and Beijing.
Living in a family of four, we have some definite family dynamics going on, so I didn’t know how travelling would be with just me and my parents. I was apprehensive going on a trip with them myself because it was the first overseas trip that we wouldn’t be taking as a whole family, but I shouldn’t have worried.
Sometimes it takes seeing your parents in a different place to make you appreciate them all the more. Maybe it was the fact that I was growing up a bit or maybe it was because my brother wasn’t there to talk to, but my dad seemed funnier, my mom more talkative and me, well, I was barely over the sullen, silent teenager stage, but I found myself actually talking with my parents.
Naturally, being a family of food lovers, we talked about food a lot. There was a lot of discussion on where we would eat next or what we would be eating. We’d feast on Peking duck and xiao long bao and discuss which restaurant had the crispiest duck skin or the juiciest dumplings.
One of my favourite meals was at a little restaurant in Shanghai. The entrance was through a back alley and the tables spilled outside onto the dimly light street. We had dumplings of course, but the real stand out for me was the cold cucumber dish. Salty, sweet, refreshing and addictive, the three of us devoured the plate in mere seconds. The cucumbers didn’t look like much, they were crushed and barely dressed, but they were fantastic.
The simplicity of sesame garlic cucumbers makes it an easy choice for a quick weeknight dinner. I paired the cucumbers with vermicelli tossed in green onion oil and sprinkled deep-fried shallots on for extra crunch. Simple, satisfying and meat-free!
Sesame Garlic Cucumbers Recipe
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cut the cucumber into about 4-5 pieces. Crush the cucumbers with your hands by pushing down on them. You can also use a cleaver or other flat metal object to crush the cucumbers. Crushing the cucumbers gives the dressing more surface area to penetrate, but if you’re into being nice and neat feel free to chop the cucumbers into 1 inch pieces. Put the cucumber pieces in a bowl and sprinkle the 1 teaspoon of salt and toss. Wait about 15-20 minutes for the water to be drawn out and then rinse and drain the cucumbers.
Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic and sugar to the cucumbers and gently toss. Taste and salt if necessary.
Green Onion Vermicelli Recipe
1 bunch of green onions sliced
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste
2 bricks of rice vermicelli
deep fried shallots for garnish (optional)
Cook the vermicelli according to the package instructions, drain and cool. Heat the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small pot on high heat until the oil is shimmery but not smoking. Add the green onions, ginger and shallots. Be careful, the oil will bubble and there will be steam! Take the pot of the burner and let cool before adding the soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste and salt. Toss the vermicelli with the green onion oil. If the noodles are too dry, add a bit more soy sauce and sesame oil. Top with sesame garlic cucumbers and deep fried shallots. Enjoy!