Spicy smashed cucumber salad is light, refreshing, a little bit sweet, and just spicy enough to keep things interesting. It also happens to be super fun to make!
Ok, so my apologies for being MIA last week. It’s actually the first week I’ve straight up skipped posting a blog. And to be honest, it didn’t feel great. It was like I was letting someone (maybe you?) down, and that’s never fun. But on the other hand, we have been so involved with IRL stuff lately that something had to take a back seat. So instead of legitimately losing my mind I took a moment to chill and reflect, oh and also pack, and travel, and move, and make a baby in my belly (who is getting super strong btw – like ouch).
So with sincerest apologies, marred by the aforementioned “but I kinda had to to stay sane” caveat, I give you the recipe I would have posted last week, along with a gentle reminder to take the time you need when you need to – even if it means you have to let something go for a second.
Smashed Cucumber Salad
So this is really more of a dish to get out any pent up aggression than a proper salad. But for as violent as the smashing can get, the end product itself is cool, collected, and super easy like a Sunday morning. This type of cucumber salad is a riff on an Asian side dish of cucumbers dressed in a simple dressing of chili oil, soy, and sugar. Doesn’t really sound like much, right? But the real trick is in the smashing.
When you calmly and collectedly (is that a word?) slice a cucumber up all nice and neat it breaks a minimum of cell walls, which means that anything you season it with has fewer opportunities to really get in there (this is why making pickles takes so long). But when you really get aggressive with a cuke, well things can get messy. But messy in this case it great, because all the irregular rips and tears just soak up all the flavor you can give them in no time at all. And I’d rather have a juicy and flavorful cucumber salad that looks a little cray than a beautifully composed but ultimately bland one, am I right?
Stuff You’ll Need
- Cucumbers – You can use whatever cukes you prefer, but I personally like the English cucumbers (marketed as seedless, which is just a damn lie) and usually found wrapped in plastic (sorry Earth). They tend to be sweeter and less mealy than their other mega mart pals.
- Soy sauce – Nothing fancy here, just some run of the mill Kikkoman will do. But if you’ve got the fancy stuff, go for it.
- Rice vinegar – For a light and subtle tang. Oh and if you’re picking some stuff up at the store, make sure to buy it “unseasoned” (ie: sans added sugar)
- Salt – Yes I know, soy sauce is already plenty salty. But too much of it can turn this salad an unnerving shade of greenish brown that I personally find rather unappealing.
- Sugar – I’ve tried this with alternative sweeteners (honey, maple, etc) in the past. And while it’s good, the neutral sweetness of plain old granulated white sugar is what works best.
- Chili flake – Traditionally you’d use chili oil, but I haven’t got that at the moment and I’m betting a good percentage of you don’t either. Chili flake is way more accessible IMO, but if you have chili oil on hand please use it!
- Toasted sesame oil – It’s toasty, nutty, and a little goes a long way. *Tip: I keep mine in the fridge – because nut and seed oils can go rancid, and the cool environment buys you more time.
- Sesame seeds – Because they’re pretty and nutty and just a little bit crunchy
How to Smash Your Cucumbers
- Whisk up your dressing in the same bowl you’ll be serving your salad, making sure to completely dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Place a clean cucumber on a cutting board or equally clean, food safe, flat surface.
- Place a large, broad knife (a cleaver works great for this, but a large chef’s knife is also totally cool) flat side down on your cucumber and using your hand and some brute force smash the cucumber all the way down its length. You want it to completely split apart.
- Now turn your knife and chop the now smashed cucumber into bite sized pieces.
- Then transfer them to the bowl with the dressing, toss to combine, garnish with sesame seeds, and let the whole thing hang out for five minutes.
Tips for Smashed Cucumber Salad Success
- If you don’t feel comfortable smashing with a knife, you can use a rolling pin or other heavy (clean) implement. Just remember to keep the smashing controlled, or you’ll be cleaning cucumber guts off of every conceivable kitchen surface in sight.
- Make sure to fully dissolve the sugar and salt into your dressing. It’s such a simple dressing, so no man should get left behind.
- Feel free to scale back on the chili flake. I understand not everyone loves all their food caliente like me. This salad is plenty delicious and refreshing without the punch of spice.
- If you feel like it give your sesame seeds a quick toast in a dry skillet (just until they begin to take on a little color). This is completely optional, but the sesame flavor will be much more pronounced.
- Let your smashed cucumbers sit in the dressing for a few minutes before serving, but not more than that. The salt will start to pull the moisture out of the cukes, and if left too long everything will become a diluted, watery mess.
- Serve with highly flavorful dishes. This is a light and refreshing side dish that is the perfect complement to something robust AF. I like it with Asian style BBQ ribs, sesame soy chicken legs, or even as a cooling accompaniment to these crunchy fried chicken tacos.
Smashed Cucumber Salad
Smashed cucumber salad is light, refreshing, and easy to make. And bonus, you get to play with your food!
- Prep Time: 10 Minutes
- Cook Time: 0 Minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 4-6 Servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: No cook
- Cuisine: Asian
2 T soy sauce
1 T granulated sugar
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp chili flake
2 English cucumbers
1 tsp sesame seeds
In the same bowl you’ll be serving the salad whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, kosher salt, and chili flake until combined and sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.
Place a cucumber on a cutting board and set the broad side of a chef’s knife or cleaver flat against it. Using your hand and some force, push down on the blade so it smashed the cucumber. Continue smashing down the length of the cucumber until the entire thing has split. Repeat with the remaining cucumber. Then turn your knife and cut the smashed cucumbers into bite-sized chunks.
Transfer the cucumber to your serving bowl and toss with dressing. Let sit for about five minutes, but no longer than ten. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
If you don’t feel comfortable smashing with a knife, you can use a rolling pin or other heavy (clean) implement. Just remember to keep the smashing controlled, or you’ll be cleaning cucumber guts off of every conceivable kitchen surface in sight.
Make sure to fully dissolve the sugar and salt into your dressing. It’s such a simple dressing, so no man gets left behind.
Feel free to scale back on the chili flake. I understand not everyone loves all their food caliente like me. This salad is plenty delicious and refreshing without the punch of spice.
If you feel like it give your sesame seeds a quick toast in a dry skillet. This is completely optional, but the sesame flavor will be much more pronounced.
Let your smashed cucumbers sit in the dressing for a few minutes before serving, but not more than that. The salt will start to pull the moisture out of the cukes, and if left too long everything will become a diluted, watery mess.
Keywords: asian cucumber salad, smashed cucumbers, spicy salad, ten minute side dish, quick and easy salads