- 1 (1-pound) English cucumber
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 5 large cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 bird's eye chili, sliced thinly on the bias
- 1 small handful whole cilantro leaves
Smashing cucumbers is a traditional Chinese technique of quickly preparing cucumbers to absorb as much flavor as possible while enhancing the natural fresh, lively sweetness of the cucumber itself. Paired with a vinaigrette made with hot oil, the result is an enticing side dish to any meal.
Technique tip: Smashing cucumbers exaggerates irregular texture which is exciting to eat. Pouring hot oil over aromatics brings out more depth of flavor. Curing the cucumbers in salt and sugar drain out flavorless water and allow cucumbers to better absorb flavors.
Swap option: You can use crushed red pepper flakes instead of gochugaru.
For the cucumber:
Place a piece of cucumber on a flat, sturdy surface. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top the cucumber and smash down firmly until the skin cracks. Repeat until the whole piece is smashed and the seeds separate. Cut into bite-size pieces.
In a mixing bowl, combine cut cucumbers with salt and sugar. Let sit for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight. Drain.
For the dressing:
Combine garlic cloves and gochugaru in a small heatproof bowl. Place grapeseed oil into the wok ladle. Heat over flame until smoking. Pour sizzling oil over the garlic and gochugaru. In the same bowl, combine rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix well. Season to taste.
In a large bowl, combine drained cucumbers, sauce, sesame seeds, bird's eye chili and cilantro leaves. Toss and serve chilled.