Cucumber and Ground Beef Stir-Fry

Cucumber and Ground Beef Stir-Fry

Cucumbers may not seem like the foremost stir-fry ingredient, but cooked quickly over high heat, they go from crunchy to silky.  Still firm enough to pick up with chopsticks, they're a great counterpoint to the density of the ground beef. 


  • 1½-2 lbs cucumbers partially peeled to create alternating peeled and unpeeled vertical strips, seeded, and cut on the bias into ¼-inch slices
  • 1½ tsp salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • 2 tsp soy sauce, divided
  • 3 tsp Shaoxing wine (Chinese salted rice wine), divided
  • 3 tbsp peanut or sesame oil
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp chile flakes
  • ½ head garlic (about 4-6 cloves), peeled and very thinly sliced


  1. Place cucumbers in a large bowl and add the salt. Mix well and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
  2. As the cucumbers stand, prepare the beef.  In a small bowl, combine ground beef with 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp Shaoxing wine, 1 tsp peanut or sesame oil, fish sauce, and ½ tsp cornstarch. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  You can also prepare the beef in advance and marinate it in the refrigerator overnight. 
  3. In a small bowl combine 2 tsp Shaoxing wine, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame or peanut oil, and the remaining cornstarch. Whisk well and set aside.
  4. Transfer the cucumbers to a colander to drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with tea towels or paper towels.
  5. In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of oil over high heat until smoking. Add the marinated beef, spreading it out with a spatula so that it makes a thin layer. Let cook undisturbed for 30 seconds. Break up the beef, add the chile flakes, and stir-fry until the beef is browned and cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  6. Wipe the wok clean and add the remaining oil.  Add the garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, for a few seconds or until aromatic.  Add the cucumbers and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  7. Return the beef to the wok and stir well.  Give the sauce a final whisk and pour it into the wok.  Stir-fry until the sauce thickens slightly and clings to the cucumbers, about 30 seconds more.  Serve immediately. 
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