After being mostly absent in October, I’ve made it my mission to try and post two new recipes a week. I’m still playing catch up. But! I wanted to pop in really quickly and bring you this not-very-seasonal-but-still-totally-necessary recipe. Sichuan Smashed Cucumber Salad + Hot Chili Oil.
My introduction to this cool and crisp snack was recent, when my dude and I hit up Portland, ME. We had some time to kill before checking into our Airbnb, so we snuck into a dumpling house for a little nosh. After two flights in stuffy airplanes, the thought of a refreshing cucumber salad sounded so good.
And it was love at first bite.
We devoured the entire bowl in minutes. Everything about it was perfect: the nuttiness from the sesame oil, the tanginess from the rice vinegar, the contrast of sweet and salty from the soy sauce, and the heat from the hot chili oil. My husband and I just looked at each other and, between crunches, agreed that we needed to make this at home. On the reg.
It helps that it’s so easy; whisk > smash > toss > eat.
Sichuan Smashed Cucumber Salad + Hot Chili Oil.
Sichuan cuisine is known for being pretty fiery. This cucumber salad acts as a cooling palate cleanser to nibble on between spicy bites—but it also works as a fab appetizer.
Here’s a random fact for you that might be helpful in some sort of trivia one day: one of the main ingredients, Sichuan peppercorn, was banned in the US from 1968 to 2005. Not because of its heat (which would actually make a better story), but because it was found to be capable of carrying citrus canker—a disease that affects citrus species. (Today you learned!)
These days you should be able to find legit Sichuan peppercorns at Asian markets without any issue. But! Instead of sending my tongue into a numbed and tingly frenzy, I decided to use hot chili oil instead; you could also use chili flakes.
If you make this dish, snap a photo and tag me on the Insta @killing__thyme! I love seeing your creations, and you could be featured in my monthly newsletter <3
Sichuan Smashed Cucumber Salad + Hot Chili Oil
This Sichuan Smashed Cucumber Salad + Hot Chili Oil brings everything to the table. It's crisp, cool, sweet, salty, and spicy.
- 2 large English cucumbers, washed
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tsp rice vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic, grated to a paste
- 1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp unrefined sugar
- 1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds
- 1-2 TBSP hot chili oil
- Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Wash your cucumbers well, then trim and discard the end pieces. Slice each cucumber crosswise into three equal parts. Place the cucumbers in large sealable freezer bag and, using a rolling pin, meat mallet, or small skillet, give the cucumbers a few good whacks to smash them. You want to be firm, but careful. After a few whacks, the cucumbers will flatten and naturally split into 3-4 lengthwise spears. Tear the spears apart, then break the spears into 1-inch/bite-sized pieces. Set the cucumber pieces into a colander and set the colander into a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over the cucumbers, toss to coat, and let them stand for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, whisk the vinegar and garlic together in small bowl; let it stand for 5 minutes. (You'll get the best result if you use a microplane to grate your garlic into a paste.)
After 5 minutes, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar into the vinegar and garlic mixture. Whisk it well until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Place the cucumbers in a serving bowl; get rid of any excess liquid that pooled in the bowl. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and give them a light toss. Drizzle 1-2 TBSP of hot chili oil over the cucumbers and garnish them with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Serve immediately.
To toast sesame seeds, add them to a dry pan and place the pan over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until they start to brown and become aromatic. Stir them a few times throughout the process to keep them from burning.