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Pai huang gua (smashed cucumbers)
In a report titled Smashed cucumber salad takes Manhattan, The New York Times praised the method of smashing cucumbers in making salads as a completely new way to eat a cucumber.
As the latest trend in New York this summer, smashed cucumbers and "their craggy edges and rough surfaces absorb flavors and form relationships in seconds," as opposed to sliced cucumbers, which tend to "shrug" off the dressing.
"It's cool how just changing the way you break down an ingredient completely changes the way it feels and tastes," said Danny Bowien, the chef at Mission Chinese Food on the Lower East Side.
The traditional Chinese cucumber salad, or pai huang gua, is dressed with a vinaigrette of soy sauce, rice or black vinegar, chopped garlic, sugar and sesame oil. In North and West China, where spicy foods are preferred, chili oil or Sichuan peppercorns are added for that extra kick.
Smashed cucumbers have long been found in Chinese restaurants in New York, but they have branched into other types of cuisine this summer. At Mr. Bowien's Mexican-influenced restaurant Mission Cantina, they are served with an intensely flavored dressing of lime, cumin and oregano-flavored sesame paste. At the Japanese restaurant Untitled, they are served with buckwheat noodles, baby turnips and tuna tartare.
At Superiority Burgers, the cucumbers are mixed with tangy yogurt and jalapeno honey and sprinkled with crushed sesame breadsticks, a form that the traditional Chinese dish has never taken before.
"There's something about the roughness, and the variety of shapes and sizes, that you get with smashing that is incredibly satisfying," said Julia Goldberg, a sous-chef who created the recipe alongside Brooks Headley, chef and owner of Superiority Burger.