Smashed Cucumber Salad is an easy, refreshing, and flavorful salad influenced by Chinese flavors. It comes together in 5 minutes or less, feeds the crowd, and is naturally vegan, gluten-free friendly!
Ever since I ate smashed cucumber salad at Cannon Chinese Kitchen, I had been wanting to recreate it at home so bad. Smashed cucumber salad (pai huang gua) is a staple in Chinese cuisine and I found a recipe in The New York Times, which by the way is stellar. It’s refreshing, flavorful, crunchy, and everything you want a great salad to have.
Like most recipes I post here, smashed cucumber salad is naturally vegan, gluten-free-friendly, and comes together in 30 minutes or less. Smashing is a classic Chinese technique where cucumber is literally smashed using a the flat part of a knife/cleaver until they begin to split apart (it surprisingly does). This releases the water, softer inner lining while the ragged edges soaks up the dressing, producing a crunchy, satisfying salad.
Salting the cucumber right after chopping and letting it drain for about 10-15 minutes before seasoning further concentrates its flavor. Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon (the Cucurbitaceae family). They are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, which means eating them on a hot summer day can help you stay hydrated. Additionally, cucumbers are a good source of vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese.
Smashed cucumber salad is perfect as an appetizer as well as a total crowd pleaser for a BBQ/potluck/parties. Original recipe here and you can easily adjust the quantity based on how many people you are serving. I would recommend preparing the dressing and salad separately and mixing them together right before serving.
Smashed Cucumber Salad
- 4 seedless, Persian cucumbers
- about 2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1.5 soy sauce (use tamari for GF)
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- Red pepper flakes, optional to taste
- Small handful whole cilantro leaves, for garnish
- 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish
- Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Slice them lengthwise into 4 pieces.
- On a work surface, place a piece of cucumber (or several) cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top the cucumber and smash down lightly with your other hand. Both the skin and the flesh will crack and break down. Repeat until the whole piece is smashed. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces.
- Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss teaspoon of salt and sugar.
- Place a plastic bag filled with ice (or an ice pack) on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and place the strainer over a bowl. Let drain 15 to 30 minutes on the counter, or in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and rice vinegar. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in sesame oil and soy sauce.
- When ready to serve, shake cucumbers well to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Add half the dressing, half the garlic and the red pepper flakes to taste, and toss. Keep adding dressing until cucumbers are well coated but not drowned. Taste and add more pepper flakes and garlic if needed. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and sesame seeds.