China Appetizerpork-stuffed cucumbers

Pork Stuffed Cucumbers
(Makes 12-15 pieces)

Crunchy rings of cucumber hold a savory pork filling.

3 cucumbers (about 7-8" long)
sprinkling of cornstarch
3 T dried shrimp (see sidebar)
1 1/2 C hot water
1 tsp. rice wine or dried sherry
1 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger (minced)
1/2 C scallions (chopped)
2 T soy sauce
1tsp. cornstarch
2 T sesame oil
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 lb. ground pork
3 T oil
1 C water

Cucumbers: peel cucumbers and cut into 1 1/2" lengths. Use an apple corer to scoop out seeds (you'll have little cucumber "tubes"). Sprinkle a little cornstarch on inside of each tube and set aside.

Filling: soak dried shrimp in 1 1/2 C hot water for 15 minutes till soft. Drain and chop soaked shrimp into small pieces. In a medium bowl, combine shrimp with remaining ingredients. Stuff pork mixture into cucumber tubes.

Frying: in a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat for 45 seconds. Gently place each cucumber piece in oil, cover, and cook 3 minutes or till bottom is golden. Carefully turn and cook the other side 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, add 1 C water (careful, it will splatter), cover, and simmer till water is nearly absorbed. Serve hot.

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Tips & Glossary

Many ingredients used in Chinese cooking probably aren’t in your spice shelf, but you can find them at Asian grocery stores. To avoid frustration, make a list of the items before trying recipes.

Agar Agar: dried seaweed used as a gelatin. Buy it in sticks (or strips) and soak in cold water to soften.

Chili Oil: buy it or make your own. For a recipe, see Hunan Chicken.

Chinese Cabbage: aka “Nappa”;long, white stalks with light green crinkly leaves.

Deep Frying: use a deep-fry thermometer to reach the recipe's correct temperature; if the oil isn't hot enough, the food will be soggy. When cool, the oil can be strained, refrigerated, and re-used.

Dried Shrimp: tiny, salted, sun-dried shrimp that add a pungent flavor to Asian cooking. Soak before using.

Five-Spice Powder: blend of star anise, cinamon, cloves, fennel and Szechuan peppercorns. Like allspice.

Peppersalt: buy or make your own. Heat 2 T Szechuan peppercorns in skillet 5 min. Grind into powder and mix with 2 T salt.

Sauces: Hoisin (sweet, from soybeans); Oyster (like soy, from oysters); Sweet Bean (canned, salty, from soybeans); Hot Bean (hot & salty, from soybeans and peppers).

Sesame Paste: from gound sesame seeds; substitute with peanut butter.

Sweet Rice Powder: from glutinous rice; used in place of flour in many desserts.

Szechuan peppercorns: dried reddish berries, fragrant and mildly hot.


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