Chinese-Style Smashed Cucumber Salad

This Chinese-style smashed cucumber salad is an easy side made with pieces of smashed cucumber that are marinated in a Thai chile, fish sauce, and rice wine vinaigrette.

A serving plate and several individual plates topped with Chinese smashed cucumber salad.

Chinese smashed cucumber salad is a centuries-old tradition that’s served as a chilled condiment of sorts during summer. This rendition is inspired by the Chinese classic yet takes it in a slightly different direction with the inclusion of fresh chile pepper rather than chile-infused oil or crushed red pepper flakes, a splash of fish sauce for a different sort of oomph, and fresh herbs.–Renee Schettler

Chinese-Style Smashed Cucumber Salad

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 45 M
  • Serves 4
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  • For the smashed cucumbers
  • For the dressing
  • For serving


Make the smashed cucumbers

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and cut each in half lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise into 2- to 3-inch (5- to 7.6-cm) chunks.

Place the cucumbers, cut-side down, on a work surface. Using a rolling pin or a cast iron skillet, gently smash the cucumber chunks to break open the cucumber, letting them split wherever they naturally fall apart.

Tester tip: To keep cucumber seeds from spewing everywhere when you smash the cucumber, consider placing a small piece of plastic wrap over the cucumber before smashing them.

Place the cucumbers in a colander over a bowl and toss with the salt. Let drain for at least 30 minutes. You want the cucumbers to still be crisp but the interior will turn somewhat translucent, juicy, and flexible.

Make the dressing

In a large bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients until combined.

Add the cucumbers to the dressing and toss well. If at all possible, cover and refrigerate the cucumbers for at least several hours to let the flavors meld.

To serve

Sprinkle the cucumbers with sesame seeds and torn basil and serve.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This Chinese smashed cucumber salad has a kind of a sleeper quality about it. Unassuming ingredients brought together to provide a wallop of flavor. I frequently make a version of the Japanese cucumber salad sunomono. This salad is sunumono on steroids. The addition of the chile pepper takes it to the next level.

This salad is practically perfect in every way. It can be assembled in a matter of minutes and offers up cool, crisp, and crunchy that will be welcome during the heat of the summer.

I used Persian cucumbers. I let the salted cucumbers rest for 1 hour. They maintained their shape and were juicy and crunchy. Most of the prep time was devoted to smashing the cucumber with my rolling pin. It was a little easier the first time as cucumbers were a little smaller. I had very firm cucumbers on the second test and it took a little more effort to break them up.

The recipe calls for Thai bird chile peppers. I couldn’t find any so substituted a serrano chile instead. As my husband is somewhat averse to those chiles topping the Scoville meter, I seeded the chile and used only 1 serrano. It was enough to infuse the dressing with a tickle of heat. The quantity of chile pepper can be adjusted to suit the taste of the chef.

It will pair well with almost any meat. I served it with salmon and steamed rice.

This cucumber salad may now be the way I eat cucumbers. It’s flavorful, refreshing, and has a nice lip-tingling zing from the chili pepper. My dinner guests also gave the cucumbers rave reviews.

I used 7 cucumbers--4 from the farmers market and 3 mini cucumbers from Costco. The market cucumbers were cut into thirds and the mini cucumbers were cut in half. The final dish didn’t taste fishy at all.

I was unable to find a Thai chile so used 1 serrano chile, seeds removed, cut in half and thinly sliced. For me, more chile pepper would have overpowered the dish.

I ended up letting the cucumbers rest for a couple of hours. The texture wasn't crisp and wasn't mushy...somewhere in the middle. Once I added the dressing to the cucumbers there was no need to adjust the seasonings. I'm looking forward to leftovers today and hope that they are still a delicious snack.


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