Mushroom and Cucumber Salad (Liang Ban Huanggua)
SERVES 4; photo p. 91 Total: 15 min.
Adapted from Tushen Shiguan, an organic restaurant in Kunming, China, this refreshing dish features cucumbers and any kind of edible seasonal fungus the chefs might have on hand. Wood ear mushrooms, pictured here along with another moss-like Chinese fungus, are occasionally available fresh at Asian markets and greenmarkets in the U.S., but if you can’t find them, dried ones are available online.
½ cup thinly sliced fresh wood ear mushrooms, or substitute ⅓ cup dried One 10-inch piece of English cucumber (1 lb.) 3 medium garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp.) 1 fresh red Thai chile, finely chopped 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. Shanxi vinegar, plus more to taste 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Chinese light soy sauce, plus more to taste
1 In a small, heatproof bowl, add the mushrooms and enough boiling water to cover. If using fresh mushrooms, let the steep for 20 seconds; if using dried mushrooms, let them soak for about 5 minutes. Drain, discarding the soaking liquid, and rinse well with cold water. Set aside while you prepare the cucumber.
2 Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and place each half cut-side down on your cutting board. Smack each piece with the side of a cleaver or a large knife to flatten it slightly (this will break down some of the flesh). Scoop out and discard the cucumber’s seeds, then cut each cucumber half crosswise into 1½-inchlong pieces.
3 Transfer the cucumber to a medium serving bowl. Add the drained mushrooms, garlic, chile, vinegar, and soy sauce, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce or vinegar as needed. Serve the dish at room temperature, or refrigerate until cold and serve chilled.