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Easy, Asian-Inspired Cucumber Salad

In the height of Chinese summer, pedestrians buy chilled cucumbers from street vendors to munch on them as a cooling antidote. Cucumbers are a wonderful fruit (yes, I said fruit — ask a botanist) to use in summer dishes. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more refreshing snack so easily accessible in grocery aisles across the world.

As I am in denial about the approach of autumn, I am clinging to summer in the kitchen. I made this salad a few weeks ago, when summer was in its fullest and most delicious swing, and ate it every day for two weeks. I was aiming for the classic pai huang gua, the smashed cucumber salad that proliferated for a time on TikTok and Instagram but, lacking miniature cucumbers, improvised and produced this instead.

Our editor-in-chief loved it. So this one's for you, Dan.

Good news, novice cooks — this recipe requires only four basic ingredients and the most entry-level skills to make. It's a delicious side salad, snack, and summer starter. With a few tweaks, it's also very easy to make it look like a Michelin star situation.

What you'll need from the shops to make cucumber salad:

  • A cucumber (natch)

  • Soy sauce

  • Sesame seed oil

  • Sesame seeds (optional)

  • A good chili crisp — I swear by this black bean chili crunch from Woolies. I put it on everything. You could make your own from scratch, but I've only tried that once and it was very underwhelming — so I shan't be teaching you how to do that.

These are the brands of soy sauce and sesame oil that I use. I would recommend making these pantry staples if you are into Asian cuisine.

How to make Asian-inspired cucumber salad

Step One: Prep your kak

First things first, you gotta cut up your cucumber. This tutorial will produce thin slivers that are best suited to a dish that will impress visually. If you're just snacking for one or if you are not particularly skilled with chopsticks, I would recommend simply cubing the cuke.

Pro tip: this salad tastes best when the chopped cucumber is left in the fridge overnight to dry out slightly. It makes the salad less wet when assembled. Great for using up leftovers.

Start by cutting your whole cucumber into two ends. Then, take one of the ends and slice it lengthways down the middle so you end up with two halves, as above.

Then, carefully repeat the process so that you end up with four relatively thin and level cucumber sheets.

Finally, carefully julienne each sheet to produce these dainty little matchsticks.

Step Two: Season your cukes

Now it's just a question of artful seasoning. Begin by mixing a conservative pinch of salt through the plain cucumber. Then, season with about three tablespoons of soy sauce and three shakes of sesame seed oil. Remember to taste as you go! It's the only way to ensure your food tastes good.

Finally, top with half a teaspoon of chili crunch (adjust to taste) and, if you're feeling fancy, some sesame seeds and dill sprigs.

And there you have it — the most delicious way to eat cucumbers, ever.

Enjoy the last few days of summer, readers! One of the things I do look forward to in the cooler season is soup season, so keep an eye out for that.


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