Chinese Cucumber Salad
April 3, 2020
Chinese cucumber salad (凉拌黄瓜) is a traditional and popular side dish in Chinese cuisine. It’s refreshing, subtly sweet, and a joy to eat with rice and other meaty dishes. This is a side dish that is always finished to the last cucumber slice in my family.
There are many ways to make this dish. You can try different proportions of the main ingredients, including soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and sesame oil. If it comes out a bit too salty, you can even add a bit of sugar to get the flavor profile back in balance.
The main ingredients are usually the same. Salt helps bring out some of the liquid from the cucumber slices and also adds flavor. Soy sauce adds natural umami that Asians (and hopefully everyone) love. Vinegar adds a tartness that pairs well with soy sauce. You’ll find that the combination of soy sauce and vinegar to be a common theme in Asian cooking. And, as you’ll see in a later post, I am a bit crazy about vinegar, so please feel free to reduce how much you use if you aren’t like me.
The key here is balance. Balance between the saltiness of the salt and soy sauce, the natural sweetness of cucumbers (which can vary), the tartness of vinegar, and the aromatic flavor of roasted sesame oil. I encourage you to try different proportions. Below, I have provided my current iteration of the dish. Even my own proportions change from time to time. Please use it as a starting point. If you come up with a variation that you like better, please feel free to share it in the comments. I’m always looking for newer and better versions of this dish for my family!
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serving: 2-4 family style
- 3 to 4 organic Persian cucumbers (about half pound or 450 grams) 1
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt or ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoon light soy sauce 2
- 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar 3
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
- Wash the cucumbers thoroughly. Discard both ends (stems) then cut them into thin round slices. 1
- Put all the sliced cucumber rounds into a deep bowl.
- Add the ½ teaspoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoon light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar, and 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil.
- Mix well and let it sit for 10 minutes under room temperature or in a refrigerator.
- Transfer to a plate and enjoy!
- I recommend using organic cucumbers for this dish. I got mine from Trader Joe’s. These organic Persian cucumbers are seedless and have a thin skin so there is no need to discard the seeds or peel the skin. If using non-organic or large cucumbers that have thick skins, I would recommend peeling off the skin.
- Here I used San-J gluten free soy sauce. But any light soy sauce (not the kind for coloring purpose) can do the job. Kikkoman, Pearl River Bridge （珠江橋牌）, and Lee Kum Kee （李錦記) are some of the common Asian soy sauce brands. You can find them in most Asian grocery stores.
- I used Chinkiang Vinegar (镇江香醋) here. It’s a type of Chinese black vinegar, similar taste to balsamic vinegar but without the sweetness. Most Asian super markets carry it. But if you don’t have it handy, you can substitute it with equal amount of balsamic vinegar.