Cucumber, squid and pickle stir fry

A refreshing and light meal. Chinese food isn't always rich, oily, sweet and heavy.

A refreshing and light meal. Chinese food isn’t always rich, oily, sweet and heavy.

The surprising star of this stir fry is cucumber. Mixed through right at the end, it remains crisp and tempers the tartness of the Chinese mustard green pickle. I have a bit of a reputation for cooking meals that takes hours of preparation and multiple steps. Even then, I’m usually guilty of proclaiming that it’s ‘really easy!’. I stand by that claim because it’s patience, not skill that I bring to the table.

The star of the stirfry. Barely cooked, it's folded through to finish.

The star of the stirfry. Barely cooked, it’s folded through to finish.

So here’s a recipe for the lazy amongst us. Once the ingredients are prepped, this stir fry takes around five minutes from beginning to end. Truly! Real Cantonese Chinese cooking is often simple and fresh; light years away from the sweet, deep fried monstrosities at some restaurants. No one eats like that at home. Serve with steamed rice or just eat a big bowl for dinner. It might seem like a lot of salt but this will season the entire dish. Underseasoned food is the worst! If you don’t consume a lot of processed foods, you don’t need to worry too much about salt in home cooking.

I’d originally planned to use cuttlefish but there was none to be found after trudging around to three fishmongers. Don’t eat seafood? This dish is just as good, albeit heavier made with beef (the meat will need a longer cooking time). If you’re vegetarian, then some tempeh would go well here too. It’s the vegetables that are the heroes of this dish.

Cucumber, squid and pickle stir fry

Start cooking: 15 minutes before serving
Feeds: Three moderately hungry people if served with rice, otherwise two people if served on its own.


  • 400 grams x squid or cuttlefish
  • 3 x Lebanese cucumbers
  • 300 grams x Chinese mustard pickle
  • 1 tablespoon x sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon x salt
  • 1 teaspoon x light soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon x white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon x vegetable oil
  • Steamed rice, to serve (optional)


  1. Rinse the squid or cuttlefish. On a chopping board, slice in half and lay out flat. Cut into slivers [In theory, all stir fry ingredients should be cut to a similar shape. I rebelled and wanted the squid to curl but this increased my cooking time]. If you also are crazy and want to create curled fishy flesh, angle a sharp knife slightly and cut into the squid/cuttlefish without going all the way through. Then turn and make similar cuts in the other direction, creating a grid pattern. Then cut into rough shapes and place into a bowl.
  2. Marinate the squid/cuttlefish with sesame oil, salt, white pepper and light soy sauce. Leave for 10 minutes.
  3. Prepare the Chinese mustard greens by slicing into slivers. Texturally, the stems are the best part to use for the stir fry but a small proportion of leaves is nice too.
  4. Top and tail the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half again.
  5. Slide your knife along the cucumber, removing most of the pulpy seeds.
  6. With your knife at an angle, cut the cucumber into slivers to match the pickle.
  7. Heat up a wok or frying pan on high heat with a tablespoon of a neutral vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower, peanut, rice bran etc).
  8. When the pan is hot, slide in the squid and let it sit for 20 seconds before stirring. It should start to curl up almost immediately.
  9. Move the squid around the pan and let it cook for another minute before sliding in the pickle. Stir for a further three minutes or until the pickle is heated through and the squid is fully cooked.
  10. Add the cucumber and turn off the heat. Fold through until evenly mixed through and serve.
Cucumber cut into slivers.

Cucumber cut into slivers.

Pickle and squid is prepped.

Pickle and squid is prepped.