This Japanese-style cucumber salad, called sunomono, is one of the simplest summer salads. All it takes is cucumbers, vinegar, oil, ginger, and lemongrass to start the conversation.
Simple. Surprising. Spunky. Just what we look for in a summer salad. Just what we found in this jumble of cucumbers, vinegar, and ginger. (Despite the title that Jamie Oliver confers on it, it’s not exactly the most traditional of Japanese recipes. But we’re certainly not holding that against it.)–Renee Schettler Rossi
LC A Seedy Situation Note
You know better than anyone else your tolerance for cucumber seeds. We rather like the slippery, watery little guys. But if you don’t, consider it as you select and slice your cucumbers, opting instead for a hothouse cucumber—the pricy, plastic-wrapped ones with nary a seed—or simply stop slicing the kirby or regular cukes as soon as you get to the seedy part. So simple.
Japanese-Style Cucumber Salad
For the ginger dressing
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large thumb-size piece of ginger peeled and finely grated or cut into very fine slivers
- 1 stick lemongrass outer leaves removed, inner ones finely chopped (optional)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- A few drops of soy sauce to taste
For the cucumber salad
- 3 kirby cucumbers or 1 large English or Japanese cucumber unpeeled but rinsed
- A handful of cilantro leaves roughly chopped or left whole
- A handful of mint leaves roughly chopped or ripped into pieces
Make the ginger dressing
- Mix everything together in a bowl. Taste and adjust the ingredients accordingly. (You can cover and refrigerate for up to several hours before the ginger flavor will become really quite pronounced.)
Make the cucumber salad
- Place the ribbons on a plate or platter and spread them out. (You can cover and refrigerate for up to several hours.) Sprinkle with some ripped up fresh mint and cilantro and drizzle generously with the ginger dressing.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This simple salad was incredibly refreshing on a hot, New England evening. I clipped fresh mint from the garden. That, combined with the lemongrass, ginger, and cilantro, made the farmers’ market cucumbers really shine. I loved the thin ribbons, which absorbed lots of the flavorful dressing. A little awkward to eat, but it tasted so good that we didn’t care.
Yum. This is truly a refreshing salad in both taste and presentation. The salad dressing with the freshly grated ginger and lemongrass was a major hit with both my husband and I. In fact, we practically slurped our salad bowls when we were done!
The kick of the ginger and brightness of the lemongrass really added a lot of character. Though the lemongrass is optional, it’s highly recommended. I added probably about 1 tablespoon soy sauce rather than the few drops called for as a few drops didn’t cut it for me.
The long ribbons were gorgeous and the mint and cilantro so pretty and fresh. The addition of a minced red Thai (or other) chile would add a bit of pop in color and flavor—not that it was needed at all. We’re in fact making this again this weekend for guests.
If I was looking at picking a recipe to be a taster’s choice based solely on simplicity, then this would be one of them. In addition to being simple, it also provides a light accompaniment to any heavier dish. Overall, it’s definitely worth putting in the book for a quick, unique salad option.
The ginger dressing with a hint of lemongrass fits perfectly with the crisp Japanese cucumber. I prepared the dressing ahead of time but left the herbs and cucumber prep until right before I served it. I used the soy sauce very sparingly and think it could be left out completely. I used my mandoline to slice the cucumbers after trying the old peeler technique and not getting as clean of slice as I wanted.
This recipe is a quick and easy way to enjoy cucumbers during the summer, and is a refreshing addition to a summer party. The ginger gives the salad an added kick. I had some cucumber slices left over, so I just added the remaining dressing, cilantro, and mint to the same container, and the salad worked great stored together.
I was initially apprehensive about this recipe, as I thought that the combination of vinegar and cucumber didn’t sound appealing. The recipe had lovely, zingy flavors from the fresh herbs, ginger, and vinegar.
I used a potato peeler to get thin slivers of cucumber, switching to a mandoline when it was difficult to use the peeler near the end of the cucumber.
I left out the lemongrass, but I think the recipe would be very tasty if it was included. However, my criticism is that I found the cucumber to be very wet and oily after the dressing was added, so I’d recommend using the dressing more sparingly, or perhaps dressing the cucumber with the dressing and then lifting the cucumber out of the dressing to serve. I also felt that the cucumber skin was a bit dull and hard to pick up on a fork, and so you might try peeling the cucumber before slicing it thicker so that there aren’t slices of just skin present in the salad.
This is one of the most refreshing and cooling summer salads I’ve tasted and is truly simple. I am a complete sucker for any Japanese/Asian/Chinese cucumber salad. When I read this recipe, I was intrigued by the fact that it didn’t have any sesame oil and called for very little soy sauce.
I tried the recipe two different ways—with cilantro and mint and then with basil and mint. Both were excellent. The basil and mint combination is nice for people who just can’t tolerate the taste of cilantro.
Many of the cucumbers that we find at the market are heavily waxed and tend to be very bitter if not peeled and seeded, so I decided to try an English cucumber. It was quite long, so I cut it in half crosswise first. This made the ribbons a bit more manageable. One thing I’ll do next time is add a little more ginger.
What little leftovers I had were wilted the next day and took on an almost preserved character. This wasn’t at all unpleasant—in fact, it was very good made into a sandwich with thin slices of tomato. The small amount of soy sauce and lack of sesame oil made this salad just a little different and lighter than typical Asian-style cucumber salads. Very much a recipe that I’ll make over and over!
This flavorful cucumber salad has a lot of potential. It’s nutritious, easy to make, and ultra-fresh. It could easily be a keeper with just a few changes: The cucumber ribbons, for instance, are pretty but not eater-friendly. I spent as much time cutting them while eating than I’d have spent cutting pieces of steak.
I also believe that while it was fresh, it had little depth. I found that I needed more than just “a few drops of soy sauce” to balance it out. I’ll make this salad again, but I’ll cut the cucumbers into smaller pieces and I’ll add more soy from the get-go for better balance.
I really like the flavor of the Ginger Dressing in this recipe, as it’s a bit different with the addition of the lemongrass. I also like the combination of the fresh mint, cilantro, and cucumber.
What I didn’t like, however, was slicing the cucumber into ribbons—I found this to be a big pain. I bought small cucumbers, so it took even longer to cut, and it didn’t help that I had doubled the recipe, which meant even more slicing. I didn’t want to use my mandoline because of the small size of the cucumbers, so I used an old-fashioned potato peeler, which gave me the right thickness but took forever to slice. It did make for a very pretty salad, but next time I’ll just slice them the old-fashioned way.
Originally published July 25, 2018