Do you crave spicy? Does that tingle on your tongue and the burn on your lips keep you wanting more? Do you gravitate toward Sichuan? Or jerk? Do you bottle your own hot sauce? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, consider this the antidote to that particular style of self-mortification.
Cucumber is naturally cooling, so I serve this alongside some of my favorite spicy dishes, just to recalibrate my taste buds in between bites. And because of the ginger, garlic and vinegar, this simple cucumber salad adds another dimension to those spicy foods. Who knew???
After peeling and grating the cucumber, transfer it to a sieve that’s set over a bowl to drain. (There’s a lot of liquid in cucumbers.) Grate a knob of peeled ginger and squeeze the juice from the pulp — I know, ginger juice! Cool, right?
Assemble the vinaigrette and toss it over the cucumber salad
I add toasted and black sesame seeds for contrast and a little crunch, but if you don’t have them, you can skip it. This salad may not be the main course, but it’ll be a welcome reprieve from whatever hellfire and damnation dish you’re currently addicted to!
asian cucumber salad
- 1 hothouse cucumber or 2 large kirby cucumbers
- pinch of salt
- 1 knob of ginger about 2 inches, peeled
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- zest and juice of one lime
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
For the cucumber
Peel the cucumber and cut into 4" pieces. Grate the outer flesh of the cucumber on the large grates of a box grater -- stop when you reach the cylinder of seeds in the center and rotate to a fleshier portion. Discard the seeds.
Transfer the cucumber to a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Transfer the shredded cucumber to the strainer and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
Make the dressing
On the small grates of the box grater, grate the knob of ginger. Scrape all of the ginger pulp into your (clean) hand and hold your hand over a small bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the ginger pulp - you should get about 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger juice. Discard the pulp.
To the ginger juice, add garlic, sugar, rice wine vinegar, canola oil, sesame oil, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Press on the cucumber to remove most of the cucumber juice. Discard the juice. Transfer the shredded cucumber to the bowl and add the sliced onion and sesame seeds. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing (you'll have leftovers - which can be used on another salad) and toss to combine. Serve.
Recipe NotesI like this salad as a cooling side dish for a spicy asian dish like Kung Pao or Sichuan.