I know, Asian cucumber salad doesn’t sound very interesting. Some people may even scoff at the fact that there are only three ingredients in this recipe. How can something with three ingredients taste good?
Well, let me tell you now that it can.
It is not just good, but it is delicious. Also, it is very useful in fighting the summer heat. Don’t underestimate it!
The saltiness of the soy sauce goes great with the bitter, creamy tahini and the crunchy, sweet and juicy cucumber. Sure, it’s only three ingredients. But they go so perfectly with each other. Sometimes, the key to a good dish isn’t about how much spices or salt and pepper you throw in, but how you design your ingredients.
Anyway, let me talk a liiitle bit about the backstory.
It doesn’t seem like typical Chinese food, but my grandmother would make this for me every time I went back to Hong Kong. She isn’t really familiar with the whole vegetarian/vegan thing, so she used to be pretty stressed out over what to cook for me. Now, before anyone thinks I’m a terrible person for forcing my grandmother to cook for me, let me just say that she’s a stubborn one. I would tell her repeatedly to not cook for me but she was always worried that I didn’t eat enough outside, so she felt like she just had to.
You know, Asian grandparents.
And so one day she made this for me. I’ve never had it before elsewhere, but man, I fell in love with it. It didn’t look particularly exciting, but it was so good. I had to ask her how she made it!
The star of the dish is the sesame paste. My grandmother pulled out a jar from the fridge and I was like…I didn’t know sesame paste was a Chinese cuisine thing? My mom never used it and I’d never seen it being used elsewhere. I guess it’s just not as popular as other Chinese condiments like sesame oil or oyster sauce.
But damn it was delicious!
Since it isn’t really widely used in most Chinese food, I tried to find an alternative. I immediately thought of tahini because really, they are essentially the same thing! I tested out the recipe and good news for everyone – it works! The difference in taste is very slight. In terms of consistency, Chinese sesame paste is slightly thicker compared to tahini. Regardless, it isn’t a problem 🙂 Tahini varies in consistency anyway between different brands (and where you scoop from the jar…lol).
Personally, I prefer to take the thicker bits of the tahini and whisk it in a mixing bowl with soy sauce to get a dressing that is more like a thin paste. This way, it adheres to the cucumber better. But if all you have is watery tahini, it doesn’t matter. It will still taste delicious 🙂
If using a more liquid-y tahini, you don’t really need to use a whisk. You can probably just stir them together! The reason for using a whisk is because a more paste-y tahini can be kinda chunky and hard to break apart, so a whisk does the job much better.
After you successfully integrate the tahini and soy sauce, you can then throw in the sliced cucumber. The cucumber should be sliced thinly into matchsticks. Also, make sure to use Japanese cucumber as it is less watery than the normal type. It is also crunchier and less likely to become limp after it turns into salad form :p
At this stage, it’s time to make use of your hands!
Use your hands to mix the cucumber and dressing together by sort of wiping the bottom of the bowl with the cucumber pieces and moving them around.
I like to just eat this straight out of the mixing bowl because I’m too lazy to wash another plate, but if you are serving it to guests or just want to be fancy, garnish with some sesame seeds. You can even drizzle a wee bit of toasted sesame oil too if you want, to excite the sense of smell and make your cucumbers look shiny :p
Try this awesome Chinese/Asian cucumber salad and then tell me how good it is 😉
Vegan + Gluten Free + Low Carb + No Onion No Garlic
Cucumber Salad With Sesame Soy Dressing
Combine tahini and soy sauce in a mixing bowl. Use a whisk if your tahini is more paste-like so that the tahini and soy sauce can integrate better.
Slice cucumbers into matchsticks.
Put the sliced cucumbers into the mixing bowl and mix it with the dressing using your hands.
Garnish with some sesame seeds and drizzle some sesame oil if you want to be fancy.