Spicy Pork and Vegetable Stir-fry

I’ve never cooked a cucumber before. Does it turn soggy? Does it turn soft? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea, but the photo in the book was working hard to sell me on the idea. I love eggplant and all things spicy so decided it was a go.

My love for this recipe are the textures—soft, melty eggplant, chewy pork and… crunchy cucumber. Yes! Through the heat, the cucumber maintained it’s characteristic crunch. The flavors had just the right balance of salty and sweet with the nice aroma of sesame—a perfect companion to a rounded bowl of steamed rice.

The cucumber and eggplant get sliced, sprinkled with salt, and are set aside for 5 minutes. This softens the vegetables and releases some of their liquid. The only thing I would do differently is trim the fat on the pork (the original recipe calls for sliced beef). The recipe calls for quite a lot of sesame oil, so a leaner meat would have been just right. I went easy on the heat, so add more red pepper flakes if you want to spice it up.

Spicy Pork and Vegetable Stir-fry
Adapted from おつまみになるおかず
Makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp. shoyu
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chopped green onions
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. grated garlic

7 oz. sliced beef or pork (I used pork sliced for sukiyaki)
3 Japanese eggplants
2 Japanese cucumbers (or 1/2 an English cucumber)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil
Scant 1 Tbsp. shoyu (preferably low-sodium)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. sesame
2 tsp. sake

Combine the ingredients of the marinade and mix well. Add the sliced meat and let sit for 10 minutes.

Thinly slice the eggplant (a little less than a 1/4 inch thick). The thick part of the the eggplant can be sliced lengthwise first, then sliced thinly into half moons. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. of salt, toss to coat, then let sit for about 5 minutes. Similarly, slice the cucumber, sprinkle 1/2 tsp. of salt, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Dump the eggplant in a thin cloth towel (like a flour sack) and gently squeeze the moisture and lightly pat to dry. Rinse the cucumber and like the eggplant, dry with a towel.

In a wok or a large pan, heat the sesame oil and cook the meat over high heat. Once the meat changes color, add the eggplant and cucumber and stir.

Once the vegetables soften, add the red pepper flakes, shoyu, sugar, and sake. Mix and sprinkle sesame seeds. Serve with rice.

Printable recipe

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  1. Janet
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    The picture looked so mouth-wateringly delicious that I had to try it, despite my skepticism that cooked cucumbers would be tasty. I’ve never been so glad to have been wrong! Now I have a new way to enjoy cucumbers. The marinade for the meat is pretty similar to the way korean people marinate bulgogi, though the ingredient portions are slightly different. Thanks!

  2. Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Janet, isn’t a cooked cucumber a strange, strange (in a good way) thing? I’m glad you tried it! Something tells me this was based on a Korean dish… anyway, if you happen to have a good bulgogi recipe, please share!

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