It is one of those Saturdays when dear fam wants to eat something different. As I sip my morning coffee and scroll through my phone, an ad pops up – The Sky Lantern festival event that will be celebrated locally. If you know Moi, my curiosity always gets the better of me…I couldn’t help myself & wanted to learn more about it.
HISTORY OF SEASAME CUMCUMBER SALAD
Since it was not a typical weekday morning rush, I started reading about the history of the lantern festival. China and a few other Asian countries celebrate this festival. If you would like, you can read all about it here. The main reason I love reading about other culture’s festivities & the stories is the symbolism behind it.
The lantern festival dates back 2000 years when, by imperial decree, temples, homes, and palaces across China adopted the practice of hanging brightly-lit lanterns on the night of first full moon of the year. The red lantern is the symbol of booming life and prosperous business. To summarize, paper lanterns were primarily used as lamps in Ancient China.
And just to clarify…no folks! I am NOT giving you a lesson in history. I am simply trying to point out, where my inspiration to make this recipe comes from. As I sat there wondering how beautiful all the houses adorned with colorful lanterns must look during this festival, all of a sudden I started craving Chinese food.
With all these thoughts swirling in my mind, out came the menu from the house of RecipeForte, that included Hakka Noodles, Veggie Manchurian with a side of Sesame Cucumber Salad as a perfect accompaniment to the Asian meal.
WHAT IS SEASAME CUMCUMBER SALAD?
Sesame Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜, pai huang gua) is usually made with smashed up cucumbers. And I was in no mood to smash anything on a Saturday, so I simply used sliced cucumbers. You can, however, do so. Just lightly smash the cucumber with meat tenderizer or a rolling pin and then cut it up into bite sized pieces.
The Sesame Cucumber Salad – Perfect accompaniment to an Asian meal, is a mix of crispy, sweet, spicy, tangy and cold that will keep you cool as a cucumber. It has plenty of ginger & garlic, drizzled with an appetizing blend of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar, then finished with chopped up scallions.
WHY YOU SHOULD PIN THIS SALAD RECIPE?
Since, this awesome salad only takes about 5 minutes to prepare. It is refreshingly tasty and pretty convenient to assemble. This super easy-to-execute salad goes very well with pretty much any Asian dish. Stir-fried options, braised meats, noodles dishes, and deep-fried goodies. You name it! It can go very well with some Western-style food too, such as bread and cheese.
The sauce is light, yet it has a distinct sour flavor with a hint of sweetness, enhanced by the strong aroma of ginger & garlic. A lot of Chinese households prepare this dish on a regular basis.
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Frankly, I did not have to store this salad in the past as I never have any leftovers. But when I come to think of it, all the salt & vinegar in the dressing will make the salad extremely soggy to be consumed the next day. It is fairly simple to make this cuke salad in a jiffy! Bottom line – do not store, just eat it all!
Sesame Cucumber Salad
- 1 Lb. Cucumbers, peeled & sliced
- 1 Tsp. Ginger, finely chopped
- ¼ Tsp. Ginger, finely chopped
- 1 Chili, Thai or Green (optional)
- ½ Tbsp. Sesame seeds, roasted
- 1 Tsp. Salt
- 1 Tbsp. Rice vinegar, or Shanxi dark vinegar (optional)
- 1 ¼ Tsp. Sugar, alternates in Foodnotes
- 2 Tbsp. Sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. Soy sauce
- ¼ Cup Scallions, or green onions (chopped)
- Wash & peel the cucumber, cut off the ends.
- Cut into half and slice into bite-sized pieces.
- Transfer into a sieve and spread salt on the cucumbers.
- Mix the salt thoroughly so that all the pieces are well-coated with salt.
- Keep aside for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, take the Sesame seeds in a pan. Roast the seeds on medium heat till they turn light brown in color. Keep aside.
- Pour cold water on cucumbers. Rinse 2 or 3 times to remove all the salt.
- Pat dry cucumbers using a paper towel. Wrap in a dry paper towel and refrigerate till ready to serve.
- Chop the scallions. Keep aside.
- In a jar add sesame oil, ginger, garlic, chili, salt, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, soy sauce & sesame oil.
- Close the lid of the jar & shake for at least 5 minutes till the oil is mixed with the vinegar.
- Take out the cucumbers from the fridge and add scallions to it.
- Pour the dressing and mix before serving.
- The salad is best enjoyed cold.
- Need extra heat – Just top with crushed red pepper flakes for that teeny tiny zing of heat. Playing with a little chili oil is also not prohibited, give it a go if you can handle heat!
- Seasoned or unseasoned rice vinegar – I personally have used both kind to make this salad. The easiest way to not over-season the salad when using seasoned rice vinegar is to, use 1/3rd quantity of salt & sugar given in the recipe. Taste the dressing once ready, make adjustments if needed. Remember, it’s always easier to add seasoning later than to take away from the dish!
- Alternatives to Sugar – As always sugar can be replaced with honey, maple syrup or agave nectar. It is optional too, you know your tastebuds better than anyone else. Take your pick or why not try using each one of them when you make the salad on the repeat, I’m absolutely certain you will!
- Reserved cucumber water from the straining – Simply use it to make a refreshing cucumber gin-martini!
- Add Sichuan peppercorns – Roast them lightly until fragrant, then crush them and add to the dressing. Use only a little to begin with as these peppercorns have a little numbing effect, unless you are already used to it.
- Use Shanxi dark vinegar – to add complexity to the salad & bring out the authenticity. It is easily available at Amazon & all Asian stores. Do as the Asians do!
I reckon it is one of the easiest side dishes to make on a busy weekday. What better way to add color and nutrition to your dinner table, right???
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