How about some refreshing, crisp and crunchy salad loaded with bold, umami flavors? This Asian Cucumber Salad is a perfect appetizer or side dish for all your Chinese or Thai mains, or just something to munch and cool off on any summer day.
It’s a smashed cucumber salad. Yes, you heard it right, you smash that cucumber a little before tossing it with a dressing that is sweet, tangy, and tad bit spicy.
Make this marinated cucumber salad, Asian style, in just a few minutes from regular pantry ingredients. Surprise everyone with this unique salad, and let it wow them with every single bite.
Salads are a great supplement to any meal, and enhance the dining experience. From regular Caesar Salad and Cucumber Tomato Salad, to more elaborate Gado Gado or Greek Steak Salad, they are such crowd pleasers.
We love to add the crunch of cucumber to all of our salads, be it any cuisine. Today we wanted cucumber to be the star, in our favorite Asian theme.
You Will Absolutely Love this Asian Cucumber Salad, Cos
- It’s super easy and quick to whip up with minimal efforts.
- If you have Asian pantry staples, then you already have all the ingredients.
- It’s very budget friendly, and can easily be doubled to feed a large crowd.
- This one is not your regular boring cucumber salad. It’s loaded with bold umami flavors and that popular Asian flavor combo of sweet, salty, and spicy. Very crowd pleasing.
- You can serve it as an appetizer, or a side to any Asian style dish.
- It’s naturally vegan, and can easily be adapted to gluten-free, so it’s appealing to lots of people, making it perfect for potlucks, picnics and get togethers.
What is Smashed Cucumber Salad?
Smashed Cucumber Salad (Pāi Huáng Guā, or 拍黄瓜) is a very popular salad in China. Versions of this salad are served all over, from small street cafes to upscale restaurants, and in many households. In Beijing, people buy whole chilled cucumbers from street vendors and munch them on the go.
The smashing process, a classic Chinese technique, cracks the skin and leaves uneven surfaces that are better at absorbing the dressing. To smash a cucumber, Chinese chefs and home cooks normally use a cleaver. If you don’t have one, you can use a rolling pin or a meat mallet. The cracked cucumbers are cut into bite sized pieces and then marinated in a tangy, savory dressing.
Regional variations exist all over China. The dressing could be as simple as some salt and hot chili peppers. Or it can have a lot more ingredients like rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil or their famous chili oil. But no matter the flavor combination, they all share the same “smashing” feature.
Persian cucumbers, Turkish, or English cucumbers are ideal for their flavor, thin skin, and minimal seeds. Japanese mini cucumbers or Thai cucumbers will also work very well.
Avoid regular American cucumbers, which come with lots of seeds and thick skin, and yield lots of water in the salad.
Asian Cucumber Salad Ingredients
- Cucumbers – Today we used English cucumbers.
- Scallions – Only use the green part as garnish for extra crunch and freshness.
- For dressing – Soy sauce, rice vinegar, Chili Oil (we used our favorite homemade chili oil, but you can use store bought), garlic (finely chopped), sesame oil, sugar and salt.
- Sesame seeds – They give a great toasty crunch as garnish.
Asian Smashed Cucumber Salad Recipe
1. Smash and cut the cucumber: Wash the cucumbers, pat them dry, and cut off the ends. Slice them in half, lengthwise. Then, using either a mallet or the flat side of a knife, smash both cucumbers along their entire length, until they starts splitting slightly. Then, slice them to about 1/2 inch thick slices, or bite sized pieces. Transfer the cucumber pieces to a bowl.
If you find it a little messy to smash the cucumber, simply cover them with cling wrap before smashing to avoid any possible splatter.
Sliced cucumber can yield some liquid as it sits for longer time. We don’t mind it at all, as we prefer sweet taste of cucumber in salad. But if you prefer a drier salad, you can sweat the water out of the cucumber. Simply place the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle some salt (about 1/2 tsp) over it. Leave it in the sink to drain naturally for 30 minutes. Rub off any excess salt before mixing the salad.
2. Make the salad dressing: Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, garlic, sesame oil, salt and sugar. Stir well until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
3. Toss the salad with dressing: Mix the cut cucumber with the prepared dressing. Toss it well. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar to your liking. Garnish with scallion and sesame seeds. Serve it immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Asian Cucumber Salad Variations
- If you don’t have chili oil, simply add red chili flakes to the salad and heat up a tablespoon or two of oil in a pan, and then drizzle it over the cucumber. You can also use other hot sauces like sambal oelek or other Asian red chili pastes.
- You can make a Thai version of Cucumber Salad by using fish sauce in the mix, lime juice instead of vinegar, and some kind of fresh Thai red chilis like bird’s eye peppers. Top it with crunchy smashed peanuts and chopped cilantro.
- Give it a Korean spin by using using Gochujang or Gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes) instead of chili oil.
Make Your Own Chili Oil for Cucumber Salad
Making your own chili oil at home is extremely easy, and much better than any store bought variety. The classic Chinese chili oil is simply made with dried chili and oil infused with aromatics and spices.
We absolutely love our homemade chili oil, it’s one of our must-have Asian pantry condiments. Simply check out our Chili Oil recipe for step by step instructions.
What to Serve with Smashed Cucumber Salad
This Asian Cucumber Salad is great to pair with most Asian meals, with any protein of your choice and rice or noodles. Think…
- Teriyaki Chicken
- Moo Shu Pork
- Mongolian Beef
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Hunan Shrimp
- Beijing Beef
- Orange Chicken
- And so many more…
Leftovers and storing
Asian marinated cucumber salad is best eaten within a day, for the crispest texture. As it sits longer, the cucumber releases more liquid. Besides that, it’s still great the next day or two.
Simply refrigerate in an air tight container. Serve it chilled, or at room temperature.
Try this refreshing and crunchy cucumber salad the next time you’re cooking any Chinese, Thai, Korean or Japanese meal. All you are doing is whipping a quick dressing and mixing it with cut up smashed cucumbers.
It’s the technique of smashing the cucumbers, the Chinese way, that makes it unique and more flavorful, as all that dressing seeps inside when it marinates.
Let us know how all the smashing and mixing goes. Enjoy the cool cucumbers, smashing style, in a bowl full of zesty, umami flavors. Be sure to check our other cracking Asian Recipes on GypsyPlate, and come back again for all the new flavors coming to you.
Asian Cucumber Salad, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 2 seedless cucumbers (we use English or Persian)
- 1 scallion, sliced
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp chili oil, homemade or store-bought
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
- 1.5 Tbsp sugar or brown sugar
- salt to taste
- Make the salad dressing by combining the soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, garlic, sesame oil, salt and sugar. Stir well until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Set aside.
- Wash cucumbers, pat them dry, and cut off the ends. Slice the cucumbers in half, lengthwise. Then using either mallet or the flat side of a knife, smash both cucumbers along their entire lengths, until they starts splitting slightly. Slice the cucumbers about into bite sized pieces of. Transfer the cucumber pieces to a bowl. (see note 1)
- Mix the cut cucumber with the prepared dressing. Toss it well. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar to your liking. Garnish it with sacllion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Sliced cucumber can yield some liquid as it sits for a longer time. If you prefer a drier salad, you can sweat the water out of the cucumber. Simply place the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle some salt (about 1/2 tsp) over it. Leave it in the sink to drain naturally for 30 minutes. Rub off any excess salt before mixing the salad.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 120Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 0mgSodium 589mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 1gSugar 7gProtein 2g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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