Elements Of Life: Important Information Update!

My newest book,The Elements of Life comes with a wheel that helps you determine your home element(s). Unfortunately, there are mistakes printed on the back of the wheel. Until the publisher can correct them, these are the right dates:
March 8, 1998
March 17, 2003
March 6, 2004

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Improvising Thai Cucumber Relish

The Thais call a cucumber relish dressed lightly with salt, sugar, vinegar, and fish sauce ajard. It is a refreshing side dish intended to be served as an accompaniment for spicy stew or curry, or with fried foods. Ajard acts as a balancer to offset these dishes’ hearty and buttery flavors.
Although the true recipe for Thai ajard uses one kind of cucumber, I like to make mine by mixing different varieties of cucumber. This adds a surprising texture and taste to this simple recipe. I learned the principle of improvisation from older Thai cooks who make up their version of ajard by adding all sorts of seasonal vegetables including water chestnuts, lotus roots, radishes, shallots, young ginger or young garlic. Some would spice it up with chilies, coriander, fresh turmeric, as well as several kinds of mints and basil. For a truly over-the-top ajard, crushed roasted peanuts, crispy shallots and crispy garlic are added.
Cucumber is at its best now in farmer’s markets. The peel is deep forest green and the inside translucent whitish meat is crispy and slightly sweet. Instead of the big and fat overgrown seeds, the center is filled with delicate, light green tiny immature seeds.
Pickling cucumber and lemon cucumber are just beginning their brief season. Both are very special treats. You don’t have to use pickling cucumbers for making pickles. In fact, these smaller cucumbers remind me of the variety we have back in Thailand. I think the texture of these gherkins is crisper than the regular cucumber and thus they make very good salad additions.
I especially love lemon cucumber for its delicate, crunchy and slightly tangy taste. When I see it in the market, as I did this past Sunday, I hoarded as many as I could pack in my shopping basket. What I can’t use for salads or in making a cool cucumber soup, I’ll give to friends.
Cucumber is one of the best summer vegetables. It is a diuretic, filled with Vitamins C and A, fiber and potassium, keeping you hydrated and your blood pressure down. It is cooling and soothes and refreshes you, especially on a very hot summer days. Peeled skins and seeds can be blended and used to revitalize the skin after a full day in the sun. I don’t even bother with the blending part. As I prepare the cucumbers for relish, I pile the peels and skins in one corner of my sink. After all the prep work it done, I just squish and slather them over my arms, hands, face and neck. I know I look like the devil, but after a nice shower my skin feels like a million dollars!

Cucumber Relish
Makes 2 to 3 servings

¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar or agave syrup
1½ tablespoons distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon fish sauce (omit for vegetarian)
Mix all ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Set aside.

2 cups peeled, seeded and thinly sliced on diagonal varieties of cucumber

Mix the cucumber with the dressing and set aside for 10 minutes, serve.

Add at least 3 to 4 of the following ingredients into your cucumber dressing. Taste for balance. Otherwise, make another batch of dressing and add to your version of cucumber relish.

• 2 to 3 Tabasco chilies, coarsely chopped
• 1 to 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro
• 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped mint
• 1 to 2 radishes, slivered
• 1 to 2 strawberries, thinly sliced (or your choice of tangy fruits)
• 1/3 cup jicama slivers
• 1 tablespoon dry-roasted chopped peanuts or other kinds of nuts
• 1 tablespoon crispy shallot
• 1 tablespoon crispy garlic


NickOlas! said...

Hello Su-Mei,

As as San Diego native, I cannot thank you or tell you just how grateful I am for your restaurants enough! I'm 24 and have grown up with Saffron... going with my mother, sister, family and friends. I'll surely be following your delectable recipes from now on!

I can say that we here at the San Diego Asian Film Foundation treasure our partnership with Saffron and hope to see you out at the festival with your new book!

kristi said...


Someone brought in a newspaper clipping to knitting about the watermelon-chicken salad and we all wanted to eat it immediately! Thanks for sharing the recipe... but we're missing you!

Arlenesfelt said...

Hello Su-Mei

We stopped in this afternoon to get a whole chicken with all it's delicious sides, which has become our latest Saffron obsession, when I saw your blog address. Though not the address you have posted, I googled you and found your delightful blog. I'll be tuning in regularly. We love and appreciate your restaurant where regardless of dietary restrictions one can eat fresh, clean, delicious food.
Thank you, Arlene and Burt Watson

Su-Mei Yu said...

Dear Nick, Thank you for your lovely comments. I have a few customers such as yourself who grew up with Saffron and it always makes me a bit choke up with gratitude whenever someone such as your introduce yourself to me when I am in the restaurant. I hope we can meet face to face one of these days.
Unfortunately I am going to miss the festival this year because I will be in NY promoting the book, but Saffron will donate as usual. Keep up the good work. The films are always so much fun to watch. Su-Mei

Su-Mei Yu said...

Dear Kristi,
Believe it or not, I was able to catch a moment here and there to knit while away. It kept be calm and occupied while I was on the 18 hours plane ride.
I miss you and the group too. Watermelon salad is still available at Saffron but only for another couple of weeks, since summer is virtually over! You are the best knitting teacher in the whole entire world! Su-Mei

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