Last weekend marked a Trifecta of Celebratory Celebrations: Chinese New Year followed by The Husband’s birthday, which landed squarely on top of Superbowl Sunday! Oh, and Groundhog Day, too! Shoot. Now it’s a Quadrant? Quadrifecta? Anyway, there was a lot going on last weekend and all of it was surrounded by delicious things to eat!
On Friday, the first day of the Year of the Horse, we ventured into Chinatown (yes, Las Vegas has a Chinatown, and a good one at that!) for Chinese soup dumplings, or Xiao Long Bao. Now, if you’ve never had them before, let me tell you, they are amazing little feats of culinary engineering! These little dumplings are traditionally filled with pork and a little gelatinized broth encased in a bun. When the buns are steamed, the gelatinized broth melts and becomes like soup, so that when you bite into the delicate bun, you are treated to a steaming hot burst of soup and meat! Delicious! Actually, I’m not even sure why I’m getting you all excited about soup dumplings because we never even got to have any! Because of the holiday, the restaurant was completely out of Xiao Long Bao…which if you ask me, is a little bit like Pizza Hut running out of pizza! Despite the fact that we didn’t get to have our celebratory bao, we had a great meal and I’m glad we didn’t follow our first instinct to find another restaurant!
One of the dishes we were served was a cucumber and enoki mushroom salad that I have been craving ever since! It was crisp and refreshing and so simple that I just knew I had to make it at home! Julienned cucumbers and enoki mushrooms married in a sweet and sour dressing made of rice wine vinegar, mirin and sugar. To that basic combination I added crisp radish, cilantro and mint and a pinch of red chili flake (I cannot resist the spicy stuff!). Enoki mushrooms are easily found in your local Asian supermarket, but I found these at Whole Foods Market for a whopping 99 cents! Did you know that there was anything at Whole Foods for 99 cents? Me either!
Preparing the salad is simple. Having a julienne peeler makes preparing the cucumber easier, but it’s not necessary. Simply peel the skin from the cucumber, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and slice the cucumber vertically into thin matchsticks. If you don’t wish to be so fussy, you can slice it crosswise into half-moons. For the radish, I sliced them into rounds using a mandoline, then sliced the rounds into matchsticks. The dressing is equally simple and you can make adjustments as you like. If you like a sweeter dressing, add additional sugar. If you like an extra kick of spice, add a bit of red chili flake!
Cucumber Enoki Mushroom Salad
- 2 large cucumbers
- 4 radishes
- 1 package Enoki mushrooms, cleaned and separated
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon aji-mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch of red pepper flake, if desired
- Thinly slice or julienne the cucumbers and the radishes and add them to a medium sized bowl. Rinse the Enoki mushrooms, then cut off the ends and gently separate the mushrooms. Chop them into 2 inch pieces and add them to the cucumbers and radishes. Add the chopped cilantro and mint to the bowl. Gently mix the vegetables with your hands.
- In a separate small bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the dressing over the salad and allow the salad to marinate in the dressing for 30 minutes to an hour. Once or twice, stir the mixture to redistribute the dressing.
- Before serving, stir one final time and enjoy!
Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Happy New Year)