My obsession with pickles started when my mother used to send me off to school with a packed lunch of cold rice, pickles and stir-fried meat and vegetables. The pickles add a salty-sour flavour that is very 'xia fan' – they make plain rice more palatable. This delicious recipe is a quick pickling technique, and the pickle should be eaten within a few days while the cucumbers still retain their crunch and freshness.
4 small cucumbers, sliced in half lengthways and de-seeded, each half cut into long wedge shapes and then sliced into 1cm/½in pieces
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and cut into small strips
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Add the cucumbers and leave to marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Divide the mixture between small bowls, garnish with the fresh chilli and serve with plain rice and stir-fried vegetables for a light but flavourful dinner.
You can also make a batch of pickled cucumber and decant into sterilised glass jars, then keep refrigerated for up to one week. Spoon some into a chicken or vegetable stir fry to add flavour.
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Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang begin their culinary journey across China in Beijing.