If you love cucumbers, or even if you don’t, you have to try this Asian cucumber salad recipe! Smashing is essential to the making and eating experience – it creates crevices for the chunky chilli dressing to nestle in. The perfect combination of refreshing and firecracker heat. OBSESSED!
Spicy cucumber salad
Everybody who knows me knows that I become obsessed with shiny new toys and right now, that shiny new toy is Spicy Cucumber Salad. I’ve been making and eating it obsessively for weeks, sometimes as a meal, defensively using recipe checking as an excuse whenever someone commented on the presence of yet another tub of this in my fridge.
It’s quick to make. An addictive combination of refreshing cucumber with a spicy in-your-face dressing balanced with a generous handful of green onion and eschallots.
I can’t wait for you to become as obsessed as me. Let’s be defensive about our obsession together!
Scared of the chilli? Make Smashed Cucumbers with ginger sauce instead!
This cucumber smashing business
Cucumbers are slippery suckers. Dressing just doesn’t stick to it.
Which is why Asians are so fond of smashing cucumbers. Bash them with a meat mallet, rolling pin or other such heavy object so they burst open a bit. This creates splits and crevices for dressing and other salad add-ins (like green onions, sesame seeds) etc to nestle in. Which means more flavour in every bite. Plus you can salt them which draws excess water out which dilutes flavour when you eat them.
It’s a great technique. It’s effective for eating experience, and it’s fantastically therapeutic. Come home after a bad day at work and bash away!
Ingredients in Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
We’re welcoming back our old friend chilli crisp that I know you dashed out to get to make the Chilli Crisp Noodles from a few weeks ago. 😂 Adds great crunch from crispy chilli bits, bright red chilli oil and savoury flavour that all comes free in the jar – especially if you get the worldwide favourite Laoganma Crispy Chilli Oil which is popular for good reason. (Pictured below)
Spiciness – Surprisingly not that spicy, it looks far more fierce than it actually is! I can eat (small-ish) spoonfuls of it straight out of the jar.
Find Laoganma Crispy Chilli Oil in the Asian aisle of large grocery stores (Aus: Woolies), else in Asian stores, and read more about this addictive paste in the Chilli Crisp Noodles. Not to be confused with other chilli sauces made by this brand and similar, like Spicy Chilli Oil, Hot Chilli Sauce, Hot Chilli Oil. Look for the word CRISP or CRISPY or CRUNCH!
Other chilli crisp brands – There’s plenty out there, mass produced and boutique ones. Sold under various names but all akin to similar meaning – crispy chilli oil, chilli crunch, crunchy chilli oil, and just plainly “chilli crisp”. Also remember in the States, chilli is spelt with one “l” – chili.
The salad things
Here’s what you need for the salad part:
Cucumbers – Use four cucumbers around 19 – 20cm / 7-8″ long. Scale up or down if yours are larger or smaller. I use four of what we call Lebanese cucumbers here in Australia (pictured) or 2 longer English / telegraph cucumbers which are around 30cm/1 foot long.
Eschallot / French onion – Called shallots in the US, these baby onions are not as harsh onion-y and finer than regular onions. I find them a pain to peel – because they have fine, papery skin – so generally try to avoid them unless I really do think it makes a dish better. In today’s case, I like them because a) we use them raw and b) they flop better rather than being all pokey. Substitute with red onion but slice them extra finely. Maybe use a mandolin.
Green onion – For more freshness in the salad. With all the cucumber freshness and the bold spicy sauce, this salad can can take it. It wants it!
Sesame seeds – Tossed into the salad for extra sesame goodness.
And here’s all you need for the very simple dressing. Because the chilli crisp does so much of the flavour heavy lifting here – it has garlic, salt, sugar, oil!
Sesame oil – For beautiful sesame flavour. Use toasted sesame oil – it’s brown and has more flavour than untoasted (which is yellow). Default sesame oil sold in Australia is toasted, untoasted is harder to find.
Rice vinegar – Because it’s an Asian salad, we’re using an Asian vinegar here which is milder than most western vinegars. However, any clear vinegar can be substituted in a pinch because this is not a primary ingredient – ordinary white vinegar, apple cider, champagne vinegar etc.
Soy sauce – The salt in the dressing. Use an all-purpose one or light soy sauce. Don’t use dark soy sauce (too strong) or sweet soy sauce (too sweet).
How to make Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
Super simple – smash cucumber, salt it (draws out water that dilutes flavour), toss with 3 ingredient dressing and as much chilli crisp as you dare!
Smash and salt
Smashing – Hit the cucumber with a meat mallet, rolling pin, hammer or similar and relish in the stress relief or simply enjoy the fun factor. Hit hard enough to make them split open down the sides but not so hard you squish them into mush.
Cut the cucumber lengthwise down the middle then into 2.4cm/1″ pieces.
Salt 30 minutes – Put them in a bowl then toss with salt. Leave for 30 minutes. The salt will draw out water from the cucumbers which dilutes flavour when you eat them. It also seasons the cucumbers all the way though.
We’re only using 3/4 teaspoon salt here and you’ll be surprised how effective this is for the amount of cucumber we’re using.
Drain and discard the cucumber water from the bowl (too salty to re-use for another purpose). Use a colander if you want to be thorough else just drain it out of the bowl, using your hand to hold the cucumbers in.
Dress & toss
Dressing – Whisk the soy sauce, sesame oil and vinegar in a bowl until it combines properly. You’ll know because it becomes murky and thicker, rather than clear and split.
Dress – Add green onion, eschallots, sesame and dressing in a bowl.
CHILLI CRISP! Add 2 tablespoons of chilli crisp – or more if you dare! You want to get a mound of the crispy chilli – it will be well soaked with the red chilli oil that colours this salad. You can always add more after you toss. Taste and add, taste and add!
Toss well until the eschalots become floppy. Then pile up high into a shallow bowl and serve!
Eat with spoon
You’ll find that the longer this salad sits around, the more water is drawn out of the cucumbers. So a few hours after making / the next day, it looks like the above.
So, my unusual eating advice for this salad is as follows:
Freshly made – The dressing is more intense flavoured and coats / gets stuck in the cucumber crevices better, less/little pooled on plate. Serve and eat with fork.
After few hours / next day – Dressing is diluted from extra water drawn out of the cucumbers. It’s not watery and flavourless, but it’s not as intense as when freshly made. So eat with a spoon like soup to get plenty of dressing in each mouthful. It’s so good!
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
- 4 cucumbers (~20cm/8", scale up/down for shorter/longer, Note 1)
- 3/4 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 1 eschalot/French onion , halved then very thinly sliced (US: shallot) (Note 2)
- 1 cup green onion , green part only finely sliced (1 large, 2 small stems)
- 2 tbsp+ chilli crisp (crispy chilli oil) – Laoganma is my fave (Note 3)
- 2 tsp white seame seeds , toasted (save some for topping)
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar (sub any clear vinegar)
- 2 tsp soy sauce , all-purpose or light (Note 4)
- 2 tsp sesame oil , toasted (ie brown, not yellow)
Smash & salt cucumbers
- Smash – Hit cucumbers with a meat mallet, rolling pin or similar to make the sides burst open. Cut in half lengthwise then into 2.5cm/1" pieces.
- Salt 30 min – Place in a bowl, toss with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to draw out water (Note 5). Drain/strain and discard salty water, leave cucumbers in same bowl.
- Whisk Dressing in a bowl.
- CHECK spiciness of your chilli crisp – they vary by brand. If using Laoganma, stick with recipe, else adjust to taste.
- Toss – Put green onion, eschalots, sesame seeds, dressing and chilli crisp in with the cucumbers. Toss until eschalots go floppy – ~30 seconds.
- Serve, sprinkled with extra sesame seeds and dollops of chilli crisp if you dare!
- Note: Water continues to come out of cucumbers so after few hours/next day, you'll have a lot more dressing but not as intense flavoured. So eat/serve with spoon to get plenty of dressing in every bite!
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