This must-try Chinese smashed cucumber salad is satisfyingly crisp, sour, and spicy. This cold and refreshing side dish is a staple in Chinese households on hot summer days.
Smashed cucumber salad tastes fresh and crunchy. The addition of ingredients such as vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, chili oil (optional but highly recommended) results in a very flavorful sauce. This Chinese smashed cucumber salad is light and healthy (as long as it isn’t completely doused in chili oil), so it can pair well with a wide variety of sides!
As the name suggests, this dish utilizes a common Chinese technique to intensify the flavors: smashing. Using the side of a large cleaver is the most common way to achieve this. This technique has two functions: removing seeds and creating a craggy, uneven surface. Removing the seeds ensures that the Chinese cucumber salad dressing does not become diluted, and the rough surface of the smashed cucumbers has more surface area for the sauce to cling on. The cucumbers are also salted and drained to remove any excess water that may dilute the dish further.
How to Make Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad
Choose the Right Cucumbers
Cucumbers with thin skin and little to no seeds are the best for this recipe because they are less messy to smash and dilute the sauce less. This smashed cucumber salad keeps the skins of the cucumbers, so using cucumbers with a waxy exterior will not be as enjoyable. Thus, the best choices for this recipe are English and Persian cucumbers.
However, if you do not have these types, you can still make Chinese smashed cucumber salad! Just make sure to peel roughly half of the skin off and scoop out the seeds first. Note that this variety may be a bit messier to prepare.
Smash the cucumbers
First, wash and dry the cucumbers. If you are using Persian cucumbers, place the cucumbers on a cutting board and smash them whole. If you are using English cucumbers, first cut the cucumbers lengthwise. If the cucumber has large seeds, you can use a spoon to scoop them out first before smashing the cucumber (shown below).
For either variety, lightly hit the cucumber with a large cleaver until it cracks into large pieces. Cut the cucumber on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces.
Salting and Serving
Toss the smashed cucumber with the salt and let the cucumbers marinate for at least 10-15 minutes to draw out excess water. When ready to serve, drain out the excess water and toss the cucumber with the remaining ingredients.
- If you do not have a large cleaver to smash the cucumbers with, you can also use a rolling pin or mallet.
- To keep your workspace clean, you can optionally wrap the cucumbers in plastic wrap or place them in a large Ziploc bag before smashing them. This way, the cucumber juices will be more contained.
- More water will come out the longer you salt the cucumbers. Less watery cucumbers result in a more intense final flavor.
- If you need to prepare this dish quickly, you can add a weight on top of the cucumbers while they are salting to draw out the water faster.
Smashed Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)
- 2 lbs cucumber (8-10 Persian cucumbers, 2 large English cucumbers)
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 ½ tbsp Chinkiang vinegar or rice wine vinegar
- 1-2 tbsp chili oil
- 1 handful cilantro leaves (roughly chopped, optional, for garnish)
- 2 tsp sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)
- Wash the cucumbers and pat them dry.
- For Persian cucumbers: Place on a cutting board and smash lightly with a large cleaver until the cucumber cracks. Cut on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces.
- For English cucumbers: Cut in half lengthwise. If the cucumbers have a lot of seeds, use a spoon to scoop them out. Place the cucumber flesh side down on the cutting board and lightly with a large cleaver until cracked. Cut on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces.
- In a bowl, toss the cucumbers with the salt. Let the cucumbers marinate for at least 10-15 minutes to draw out excess water.
- To serve, drain off any liquid and toss the drained cucumber with the remaining ingredients. Taste and add more salt, garlic, and/or chili oil if desired.