This crunchy Asian cucumber salad is the superstar side dish you need on your table. The balanced flavors of sesame oil, chili paste and vinegar come together with a little honey to make this chilled cucumber salad simply divine.
My single experience at Din Tai Fung, the famous Taiwanese restaurant, was unforgettable. Strolling through a fancy shopping mall in Singapore, the hubs and I were hungry and looking for dinner at 5 pm - long before most restaurants opened for dinner. We stumbled on a storefront with big windows showing a team of chefs making dumplings, and a snaking line of patrons waiting outside. We queued up and waited our turn.
What followed was magic. Smoked duck spring rolls, ginger crab soup dumplings, and steamed prawn dumplings. Truly, it was the stuff of dreams.
I wasn't familiar with this restaurant prior to our happy accident in Singapore, but soon learned we had stumbled onto a gem of a Taiwanese restaurant (Their Hong Kong location even earned a Michelin star!)
When I returned to the US and devoted myself to learning more about their recipes, I found that their cucumber salad has a cult following. Since so many of my favorite flavors are included in this vegetarian powerhouse of a dish, I wanted to be able to replicate it at home. And here it is!
What you'll need to make this copycat recipe for cucumber salad:
- Persian cucumbers
- Kosher salt
- Fresh garlic
- Rice vinegar
- Chili sauce (sambal)
- Sesame oil
Full measurements and directions included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for my version of Din Tai Fung's cucumber salad:
To begin, clean and chop your fresh cucumbers into 1-inch thick pieces. Toss cucumber pieces into salt and let them rest in a colander for 30 minutes, draining off excess liquid.
While the cucumbers are brining, combine the dressing ingredients, including minced garlic, rice vinegar, chili oil and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk well. Set aside.
After 30 minutes, rinse the salted cucumbers well under running water for 45-60 seconds to remove excess salt. Taste the cucumbers to ensure they are seasoned, but not too salty. Dry cucumbers well in a paper towel or kitchen towel to remove any extra water.
Toss the cucumbers into the mixed dressing. I like to transfer the cucumbers pieces and dressing to a zip top bag so the veggies stay as flat as possible and coated in dressing. If you have a shallow dish large enough for the cucumbers to lay in a single layer, that's also ideal.
Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator. Taste and adjust seasoning. Arrange on serving plate and pour marinade over cucumbers.
FAQ's, Variations and Serving Suggestions for this Chinese cucumber salad:
Persian cucumbers are my preference, but English cucumbers are a good substitute. Both varieties have a thin skin that is both mild and pleasant tasting. Regular cucumbers have a high water content and lots of seeds, and the skin really needs to be peeled to enjoy it properly.
The salad dressing has a good hit of balanced spice from the sambal. If you're looking for a more fiery experience, dice or slice a fresno chile and add it to the dressing, or sprinkle over the top of your crunchy cucumbers after marinating them.
I have found 4 hours to be optimal, but in a rush, I've served them in as little as an hour. If I know I don't have the full time for the veggies to soak up the sauce, I may add a little more sambal and then drizzle the platter with a few additional drops of sesame oil before serving.
To store, transfer to airtight container and keep in the refrigerator up to 48 hours. The crisp cucumbers will lose some of their bite the next day, but the flavors of the Din Tai Fung cucumbers in dressing will still be delicious.
Check out some of out other Asian delights:Print