Cold Cucumber Salad

Cold cucumber salad, or liang ban huang gua in Mandarin, makes for a delightful plate of pickles to start off any meal. My friend Lynn Chang’s mother, Li, says her family’s original recipe used ginger sugar syrup but because it’s not readily available, maple syrup is the next best thing. The diagonal cuts in the cucumber allow the vegetable to absorb more flavor from the brine but you may skip this step if in a rush. For additional color and flavor, you can also add diced red bell pepper. The pickles will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Once the veggies are gone,  re-use the brine for another batch.

Time: 20 minutes (active), 2 hours 30 minutes (total)
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

2 large cucumbers
1 small carrot
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 thin slice fresh ginger root (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Using a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, peel cucumbers, leaving alternate strips of green. Cut each cucumber lengthwise into four spears and remove seeds using a teaspoon.

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Lay each spear skin-side up on a chopping board and make diagonal cuts (no more than halfway across the width) into the edge closest to you from top to bottom. Repeat with remaining spears. Cut cucumber into 1/2-inch slices.

Peel and cut carrot into coins 1/4-inch thick.   

Place cucumber and carrot into a colander and sprinkle salt all over. Let stand for 1/2 hour.

To make brine, in a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and microwave on medium-high for 1 minute. Stir brine, making sure all the sugar has dissolved, and taste.

Rinse vegetables and drain off excess liquid. Place in a bowl and pour cooled brine over. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain and serve.