A super easy Chinese smashed cucumber salad made with basic ingredients including salt, sugar, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and chili oil. It can be super delicious even with only 5 minutes of preparation. This is one of the most popular homemade cold dishes in China throughout the year.
Cucumbers are really great for summer. The excellent and crispy taste can help us against the hot weather. There are many cold dishes in China that are equal to salads in the western centuries but this smashed cucumber salad is always the best choice for either quick dishes or large dinners. It is called "凉拌黄瓜" in Chinese meaning: "cold cucumber salad".
Unpickled version VS pickled version
Elaine has two ways of making easy Chinese cucumber salad: one is to smash it directly before mixing and the other one is to pickle the cucumber for around 15 minutes with salt to remove extra water content. The unpickled version is much quicker and delicious. While the pickled version gets a more crisper texture and is less fresh in taste. Smashed cucumber can absorb more sauce within the cucumber, resulting in a compound and uniform taste. However pickled cucumber salad has two layers of taste. The first is the combined sauce, which succeeded with a crispy and freshness from the cucumber slices. I strongly recommend you try both ways if you love cucumber salad the same as me.
Do I need to remove the skins?
For the cucumber, pick fresh ones and just peel the thick skin off and remain thin skin, which can help to add some extra green color and also make the smashed cucumber crisper. If you really do not like the skin, you can peel them all off. Do remember to cut the two ends off. Or if you use organic small cucumber, keep the skins and just remove the two ends.
Why smash the cucumber?
One of the key tips for this Chinese-style cucumber salad is to smash the cucumber with a wide knife. Smashing will create enough space inside the cucumber, helping the flavors and sauce permeate.
There are lots of variations of Chinese cucumber salad. This is the very basic and simplest version which doesn't need a pickled process. The mashed cucumber can be simply served with sesame oil and garlic, a more savory version by adding light soy sauce, or a hot and sour version by adding chili oil and vinegar. Or sometimes, we match the mashed cucumber with other ingredients perfect for cold dishes too like wood ear mushrooms.
Step 1: Prepare Your Cucumber
Wash the cucumber well and trim off the tough skins. For long Enough cucumber, peel off half of the skin and let the remaining add some green colors. Or if you are using organic small cucumber, peel only the skin around 5cm from the two ends. Then cut off the two ends.
Step 2: Smash
Put them onto a larger cutting board and get a wide knife, cut the cucumber lengthwise. Place skin side up and use your knife to smash the cucumber.
Step 3: Cut them into smaller pieces
Add the cucumber into small pieces and transfer to a serving bowl.
Step 4 - Add garlic
chop garlic, finely chop the garlic and place them on top of the cucumber.
Step 5: Add the sauces.
- Basic sauce - salt, sugar (optional), and sesame oil.
- With light soy sauce and black vinegar
- With light soy sauce, black vinegar and chili oil
The light version with only sesame oil, salt, and sugar can be super fresh if you get a high-quality fresh cucumber. Sugar is optional.
If you want to make this more savory and strong in flavor, add light soy sauce and black vinegar.
For a spicy cucumber salad, add chili oil to make this extremely delicious.
Recommended Chinese-style salad for hot summer
- wood ear mushroom salad--the spicy and sour version I love the most.
- Bean thread noodles salad with carrots and spinach--a healthy vegan salad
- Sichuan-style eggplant salad with fresh chilis
What to serve with smashed cucumber salad
This cold cucumber salad can match extremely well with almost all savory braised dishes or stir-frying as a side dish. The top choices include: mapo tofu, red braised pork belly, twice cooked pork belly, and Hunan beef stir fry.
Chinese Cucumber Salad
- 1 fresh English cucumber , or two smaller ones, around 350g
- 3 garlic cloves , mashed and then chopped
- ¼ tsp. sugar , optional
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. light soy sauce , optional
- 1 tsp. black vinegar , optional
- 1 ~2 tsp. chili oil to taste , optional
- For long English cucumber, wash the cucumber and peel off tough skins. For small cucumber, remove the two ends.
- Smash with a wide kitchen knife (like Chinese slicing knife) until the cucumber is well crushed. Then cut into one bite pieces.
- Transfer all cucumber cubes into a bowl. Mix well with mashed garlic, salt and sugar.
- Or further add light soy sauce and vinegar to make a more strong version.
- Or add chili oil for a hot version.
I made this today but added one piece scallion. It was very delicious. I saved the dressing to dip dumplings into at dinner in the evening. Thank you.
Thank you GG. Love to hear that. Happy cooking!
You get it, Ellen. Happy cooking.
Chinese food lover
I saw this amazing recipe on Instagram and made it. I added some chili flakes with the chili oil but be aware not to add too much or your mouth will be on fire. 10/10 recipe!
Thank you Christina!!