Steamed Cucumber with Cassia Blossoms

桂花蒸黄瓜

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    2–3

    as a light vegetable course .

Appears in

The simplicity of steamed foods can be dramatic, as this dish illustrates perfectly. It has an intriguing taste and is very pretty to look at—a cluster of jade-like circles, all a pale celadon.

  • All you need are impeccably firm, fresh English cucumbers (the elongated seedless variety with edible skins), a bit of fine honey, and a sprinkling of smoked, finely minced ham. The cassia blossoms are a special embellishment, but you can do without them if the cucumbers and ham are exceptional.
  • This is a dish that takes only minutes to prepare and steam. The only way to ruin it is to give it too much time.

Ingredients

  • 1 very firm English cucumber, about a foot long
  • about 1 tablespoon mild wild-flower-type honey or lavender honey
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese cassia blossoms (optional)
  • about 2 tablespoons finely minced Smithfield ham

Method

Preparations

About 15–20 minutes before serving, cut the cucumber into even coins a scant ½ inch thick. Be precise. They must be cut evenly to steam evenly, or one will be mushy while another remains hard.

Arrange the coins touching one another on one or two flat heatproof plates at least 1 inch smaller in diameter than your steamer. Leave at least an inch free at the rim of the plate to accommodate the juices that will collect during steaming. Use plates on which you can serve the cukes, to avoid having to transfer them once steamed and soft.

Mix the honey with the cassia blossoms to blend. Using your finger, smear the top of each coin with the honey mixture, lightly or more thickly to taste. Sprinkle a bit of ham on top of each coin. Proceed immediately to steam the dish.

Steaming the cucumbers

(For details on steaming and how to improvise a steamer.)

Bring the water in the steaming vessel to a gushing boil over high heat. Add the plate to the steaming rack, cover the steamer, then reduce the heat to medium-high. Steam the cucumbers for 8–10 minutes, until a knife pierces one coin easily. Serve immediately, surrounded by the steaming juices.

Eat this dish up. It loses everything upon cooling.

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