[NOTE: If you think to plan ahead, the cucumbers benefit from up to 12 hours of draining time. Smash and salt themin the morning, and they’ll be ready in time for dinner. If you can’t find Persian cucumbers, you can substitute 2 English cucumbers instead—just halve them lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon before smashing.]
6 Persian cucumbers
1 t. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 t. granulated sugar
¼ c. rice vinegar, divided
¼ c. soy sauce, divided
4 cloves garlic, grated, divided
1 4” piece ginger, peeled and grated, divided
2 T. plus 2 t. toasted sesame oil, divided
¼ c. hoisin sauce
¼ c. sweet chili sauce 2 T. sambal oelek
1 bu. scallions, thinly sliced, white bottoms and green tops separated 1 ¼ poundsground pork
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste 1 c. julienned carrot
1 lg. or 2 sm. heads butter lettuce, cleaned, roots trimmed, leaves separated 1 T. toasted sesame seeds, optional, for garnish
Working one at a time, place cucumbers on a cutting board and trim both ends. Using a small skillet or a rolling pin,lightly smash each cucumber in intervals—this is a great task for kids!— and break apart into craggy pieces.Transfer to a strainer set over a large bowl and add the salt, then toss to coat. Allow the cucumbers to drain,refrigerated, at least 1 hour. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in about a quarter of the ginger and garlic pastes and 2 teaspoons sesame oil, cover, and set aside, chilled, for later.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining rice vinegar and soy sauce together with the hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce, sambal oelek, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. In a large skillet, heat the remaining sesame oil overmedium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the scallion whites. Season lightly with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add remaining garlicand ginger pastes to the pan and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute more.Add ground pork and cook, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until beginning toturn golden brown in places, 4-5 minutes. Carefully add half of the sauce to the pan, reserving the rest for later,along with the carrots. Continue cooking, stirring to coat everything, until the sauce is slightly reduced and glossy, about 2 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper, then remove from heat and set aside.
Remove cucumbers from refrigerator and discard any liquid that’s drained off, then transfer to a paper towel-linedplate to absorb any residual moisture. Return cucumbers to the large bowl over which they drained, then toss withthe reserved dressing and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with scallion greens and toasted sesame seeds, if desired. Serve immediately alongside the lettuce cups—to finish, spoon the filling into doubled up lettuceleaves, drizzle with the remaining sauce, and garnish with scallion greens.