Chilled crunchy cucumbers marinated in a sweet, salty, garlicky, and tangy sauce. Smashed cucumber salad (拍黄瓜, Pai Huang Gua) is a traditional Chinese dish from Sichuan that features slivers of cucumbers that are cracked, seasoned, and chilled. There are other traditional variations of this recipe that use chili flakes, fresh red birds eye chilies, Szechuan chili oil, or peanut butter. This is my paternal grandmother’s!
Why This Works
Cucumbers are typically difficult to season with sauce due to its high moisture content. The Chinese technique of smashing the cucumber ruptures the vegetable, creating texture, allowing the maximum absorption of flavor. Although this dish is served cold, it is ideal for both hot and cold climates.
Useful Tips on How to Make the Best Cucumber Salad
What type of cucumbers do I need to make smashed cucumber salad?
Persian cucumbers are recommended for this recipe due to their ultra crunchy texture, thin skin, and small amount of seeds. English cucumbers may be used as well however, must be peeled before use due to its tougher skin.
How do I pick out cucumbers?
Choose cucumbers that are firm, vibrant, and undamaged. Avoid cucumbers that feel soft, look shriveled, or have discoloration.
How do I make smashed cucumber salad?
The process of making a smashed cucumber salad is very easy. Lightly smack trimmed cucumbers with a knife, rolling pin, or meat tenderizer until a horizontal crack is formed. Using a sharp knife slice the flesh into bite-sized pieces, salt evenly, then chill. Drain the excess liquid, season the drained cucumbers with dressing, and serve.
Cucumber Salad (Pai Huang Gua)
- 2 lbs persian cucumbers
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1.5 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 3 garlic cloves smashed, peeled, minced
- 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
- 1.5 tbsp white sugar
- Prep | Place a large sieve over a bowl. Trim the ends of a cucumber off. Place the flat side of a knife on top of the cucumber and lightly tap with your fist until the cucumber is cracked. Using the knife, slice into 3/4 inch pieces. Transfer into the sieve and repeat. Sprinkle salt over the cucumbers and toss with your hands. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Assemble | Discard the liquid collected at the bottom of the bowl. Place the drained cucumbers into the bowl. Cover with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, and sugar. Toss well. Serve with toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, or scallions if desired.