One more post covering the cooking class in Beijing - two quick, yummy summer salads. The cucumber salad is actually one of my favorites when I go out for dinner in China, it's always good, and very refreshing. The radish was new for me, but perhaps it's a regional Beijing or Northern China specialty as I found it that night in my roadside restaurant.
The radishes we got where HUGE! They were watermelon radish, just about 10 times bigger than any I had seen before. And like all watermelon radishes, jut very beautiful to look at. They are hard to find, at least in California, but a daikon or just small radishes will work just as well.
Preparation for both of them was very straight forward: The cucumbers first got a good smack with the cleaver, to break them up a little and allow them to take the dressing a little better. Then they were cut in 1/2" cubes. Very easy and quick.
The cook helping Chunyi was very good with the cleaver, as you can see from her slicing and julienning the radish. I think I can do it with my Santoku knife, but there is no chance I can do it with a Chinese cleaver. But then I guess if that's what you cut everything with you improve over the years :-)
The dressings: The cucumber got very finely smashed garlic, run through mortar and pestle for a minute or so. We added salt, light soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and a bit of chili paste - pour it over the salad and mix. The radish was even easier, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of sugar, and vinegar to taste. Done!
The bowls on the left show the salads before the dressing, the right is with the dressing. Resist the urge to add sesame or other oil to the radish salad - I tried it and there really isn't any improvement to the taste, it's much better oil free, for a nice fresh and clean taste, perfect for an accompaniment to a summer dinner.