This cucumber salad blends together common Chinese flavors into a delicious and refreshing side.
This refreshing Sichuanese dish balances richer, heavier courses and provides great textural contrast to otherwise texturally-dull dishes, making it one of my favorite appetizers.
Given how easy it is to prepare, ordering cucumber salad at restaurants can sometimes feels like highway robbery. I often find myself fighting my deeply-ingrained “get your money’s worth” attitude when I see the prices that some restaurants charge for this dish. At home, I have no such reservations. Whether you prefer a light slick of dressing or a complete drenching, the simplicity of the preparation lets you tweak the flavors to your taste at a low cost.
Regardless of your particular palate, the staples of a decently stocked Chinese kitchen–soy sauce, sesame oil, and black vinegar–come together with the garlic and sugar to make a surprisingly nuanced and unsurprisingly delicious vinaigrette for the cool, crisp smashed cucumbers.
- 1 English or 2-3 Persian cucumbers
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese light soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar, such as Chinkiang
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds (optional)
- Wash cucumbers and pat dry. Cut cucumber into manageable lengths for smashing (roughly 3-4 inches). Smash the cucumbers by placing them in a ziploc bag to contain the juices, then pressing into them with either a rolling pin or a large flat cleaver. Then, cut the smashed cucumber into bite-sized pieces.
- Toss the cucumber with salt and chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to draw out excess water.
- While the cucumber is resting, prepare the dressing. Heat up the sesame oil and fry the garlic until just lightly browned. Combine the fried sesame oil and garlic, soy sauce, and black vinegar to taste. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Play around with the ratios to get a flavor you enjoy; whether it’s lighter or more vinegary, there’s room to experiment.
- Toss the cucumber with the dressing until each piece is evenly coasted. Garnish with chili flakes and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for up to a day for stronger flavors.