Friday, October 16, 2009

Braised Cucumbers and Mushrooms

Cucumbers are another one of those vegetables that are quite different in Japan than in America. Here, they are skinny (never more than an inch in diameter), virtually seedless, and sometimes a little spiny-skinned. Inside they're usually slightly green and have a wonderful fragrance. Like the rest of my produce, my cucumbers come from the corner discount vegetable stand, so they tend to be slightly older and uglier than the ones selling at a premium across the street at the supermarket. They also come in baskets of eight or ten cucumbers. One is plenty for a salad, and the rest would just slowly wilt in my fridge unless I did something drastic on the weekend. Earlier in the summer I made some fresh pickles by pouring salt, vinegar, and boiling water over sliced cucumbers, but while pickles are nice for a garnish, I don't like to make a whole meal out of them. On the other hand, treating cucumbers as if they were zucchini turns out to be an easy and tasty way to preserve them all week long as well as to add some variety to my daily bento lunch.

I cut each cucumber into quarters lengthwise and into chunks about an inch and a half long. In my saucepan, I put just enough soy sauce and water to cover the bottom. Then I tossed in the cucumbers and some nameko mushrooms (a naturally slimy variety which adds a texture the Japanese seem to love but most Americans probably don't) as well as some sliced hot red peppers. It was ready in under ten minutes. The cucumbers turned darker green but retained their bite, the mushrooms were nicely soy-infused, and the peppers gave it a vaguely Korean accent. I enjoyed a serving of it warm, but it was just as good cold in my lunchbox.

No comments:

Post a Comment