I've been making this Chinese smashed cucumber salad for years, and it was not until I made this quick salad for a recent potluck dinner that I thought it worth sharing since many of the guests wanted the recipe. It is one of those recipes that's so easy that you think everyone already knows how to make it. So, for those of you who wanted the recipe, here it is with a youtube video to boot.
The key to a phenomenal smashed cucumber salad is the texture and crunch of the cucumbers combined with the overall flavor of a simple dressing consisting of rice vinegar, sesame oil, salt, sugar and tons of fresh garlic! So if you love garlic, this salad is for you!
Tips for making Chinese smashed cucumber salad
Use cucumbers that have the least amount of seeds since the seed area is the softest part of the cucumber. Persian cucumbers are preferable. However, if you only have regular cucumbers, peel some of the skin to allow the vinaigrette to absorb into the cucumber and cut the cucumbers into 1 " diced pieces. (Quartered length-wise and then sliced into 1" pieces if the diameter is too big!).
Smashing the cucumbers.
The goal of smashing the cucumbers is not to completely flatten them but to create ragged edges and more surface area that will initially allow more of the cucumber juice to be released but also to then absorb the vinaigrette.
The easiest way to smash cucumbers is to place the cut cucumbers in a storage or plastic bag and using a rolling pin, lightly smash the cucumbers to break the edges.
Extracting the juice from the cucumbers.
The purpose of extracting the juice from the cucumbers is to make them more crunchy and also to allow the cucumbers to readily absorb the vinaigrette, making them more flavorful.
Salt and lightly squeeze the smashed cucumbers and allow the juice to drain through a colander for an hour in the refrigerator.
The vinaigrette is very garlicky. However, the intense garlic flavor mellows the longer it sits in the vinegar. Make the vinaigrette while the cucumbers are draining in the refrigerator to remove the sharp bite of the garlic.
When the salt has extracted some of the juice from the cucumbers, place the cucumbers in a bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.
Adding color to the salad
If you'd like to add some color to the salad, slice different colored mini peppers and marinate them in the vinaigrette while the juice of the cucumbers is being extracted.
Sprinkle the salad with chili flakes for color and a bit of heat!