Saturday, 7 September 2013

Vegetation Variation

Tagliatelle di Riso con Cetriolo Giapponese in Agrodolce
Sweet & Sour Japanese Cucumber with Rice Noodles

Oh, I bought a number of strange things today- but this fellow here caught my eye at Mrs Wongs stall in the market hall... strangely speckled and more yellow than green, this Japanese cucumber needed investigating! The detail I like about it most was that she grows them right here at he garden in Frankfurt! How excellent is that?!?

So how does it taste? What is it like? Well, basically like a regular cucumber, with a slightly "crisper" consistency which reminded me ever-so-slightly of water chestnut. But no, to all extents and purposes, it tastes like a regular cucumber with a hint of bitterness- which is fine by me! More depth of flavor, more character of its own... more fun!

I prepared it in much the same way as one would a regular cucumber, by slicing it down the middle length-ways, lying the slices on their sides and with a diagonal cut, removing the seeds. I then cut it into bite-sized chunks and popped it into a frying pan with a little sesame oil. I let it sizzle away, tossing it occasionally, and then seasoned it with a little soy sauce.

When the cucumber began to brown, I added a splash of soy sauce, malt vinegar, a little chili/banana sauce and gave it a good stir. The chili sauce with banana is from the Phillipines and is wonderful, because as well as being hot, it has the sweet banana that stops it being too, too hot- and go well in a sweet and sour dish!

In the meantime, I soaked just a handful of rice noodles in warm water- I added these as an afterthought, as they would soak up the juices and thicken the sauce that I was about to create! I added a cupful of water, a teaspoon of tomato paste, a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of sesame oil, then added the now half-way soft noodles. 

The next thing I added was a finely sliced red chili pepper- I decided the dish needed a little more "zing!". Along with the chili came a star anise for a little 
added aroma and a crushed and ground clove. 

Of course, the only real thing missing was the noodles- and they went in next. Almost immediately they began to soak up the tasty juices, and after tossing carefully for 5-6 minutes, all of the ingredients seemed to come together and all that needed doing was to alter the seasoning and serve it up!

A little more honey, a little mores vinegar and soon the whole thing was ready to be finished off with a very finely chopped Spring onion and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. Finished! Whew!

This may not be for everybody of course- cooked cucumber is an acquired test, but juicy and refreshing and neutral enough to be spiced-up quite a bit! And it was something new for a change! And we can't get enough of the unusual ingredients now, can we? Nah! Didn't think so!

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