Whenever I need a quick appetizer or side to go with an Asian main course, I turn to cucumbers. These slick, crunchy workhorses of the kitchen are always reliable when you need that last-minute “something extra.” Sure, you can pickle cucumbers, jar them, and save them for the future, but my favorite way to eat them is raw, in a quick salad.
In Sichuan cuisine, cucumber salads are a great cooling refresher between bites of the other much hotter dishes. Thailand and Vietnam also have their own versions of cucumber salads. But since I’ve been cooking quite a few Japanese dishes this week, I decided to make a batch of Japanese cucumber salad to go along with them.
This recipe couldn’t be easier. You just toss the cucumbers in salt, let them sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then gently squeeze out the excess water. Then you mix the cucumber slices in a fragrant blend of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.
And if you need suggestions for Japanese dishes to pair with the cucumber salad, check out our Japanese recipe archive.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer
- 4 Kirby cucumbers or 2 large cucumbers
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup white rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon white or black sesame seeds, or a mixture of both
- Cut the cucumbers into paper-thin slices. In a large bowl, toss the cucumber slices with the salt (this draws out excess water). Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, stir together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
- Drain the cucumber slices in a colander and gently squeeze them with your hands to squeeze out excess water. Return the slices to the large bowl and toss with the rice vinegar mixture. Transfer the cucumber to a serving dish. Serve at room temperature with sushi, noodles, stir-fries, etc.