Asian food expert Bruce Cost told me years back that two-toned Vietnamese tia to (red perilla) was also used by the Chinese. I didn't see it mentioned until I read Fuchsia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. In her collection of Hunan recipes was this gem. It's unusual to cook cucumber but it's understandable. There are few vegetables that are eaten raw in the Chinese repertoire so it's no wonder that cucumber gets cooked. Pan-frying turns cucumber into a juicy morsel with a slight pickle-like crunch.
The aromatics and seasonings enliven the flavors. At the end, chopped red perilla (aka purple perilla, zi su in Mandarin) is added for an herby finish. Our mild winter left me with a decent amount of tia to leaves in my garden. Thai basil could be substituted if you can't find the perilla, which is sold at Vietnamese and Chinese markets catering to Vietnamese shoppers. In Chinese, this Hunan dish is called zi su jian huang gua.