Stay cool as a cucumber with this smashed cucumber salad with tahini-miso dressing. It’s refreshing and works great as a side dish or entree.
Smashed Cucumber Salad with Tahini Miso Dressing
Smashed (also called Smacked) Cucumber Salad–Pai Huang Gua–is a Chinese side dish that is typically served alongside meals. It’s flavors traditionally entail garlic, Chinese black vinegar–known as Chinkiang–, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, and seasonings. This iteration calls for smashed cucumbers topped with a nutty and umami-flavored dressing and homemade chili oil. Refreshing, spicy, and delicious.
Smashed Cucumber Salad with Tahini Miso Dressing
This recipe calls for a technique known as “smashing” or “smacking” cucumbers prior to adding dressing. Cucumbers are smacked using the back of a knife or rolling pin, causing the cucumber to crack, or split into smaller pieces.
The reason for this process is to loosen the flesh, and in turn, help to absorb flavors of the sauce, or in this case, dressing. I also like the varied textures that smacking lends to cucumbers.
Salting cucumbers is an easy technique that will yield crunchy and even more flavorful cucumbers.
Adding salt to cucumbers draws out excess moisture from the vegetable, and in turn, enhances the crunch factor. While it isn’t absolutely necessary, I prefer it, as once sliced, cucumbers release water as it sits. Incorporating the salting technique is convenient and makes for a less watered down salad dressing.
How to Salt Cucumbers
- Smack cucumbers: Using back of knife or rolling pin and slice into ½ inch diagonal pieces.
- Strain and Salt: Place cucumbers in a strainer and add ½ teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Toss Well: Ensuring cucumbers are coated in kosher salt.
- Sit: Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Drain + Drain: Place drained cucumbers in a bowl. Add dressing and top with chili oil.
Let’s Talk Miso
Miso is a Japanese fermented paste made of soybeans and koji (mold that’s also used to make sake and soy sauce), that work together to break down the structure of the beans and ferment over the course of weeks or years.
Although many associate miso with miso soup, its use far surpasses that of warm, slurpin’ goodness. Miso paste serves as a great marinade, a great addition to dressings, cookie dough sauces, soups, and umami accompaniment to vegetables, seafood and meats, and personally, one of my most favored secret weapon in my pantry.
What Type of Miso Should You Use for This Recipe?
There are many types of miso, from light to dark in color, red, yellow, white; the depth of color lending to its unique flavor. Flavor profile also varies; salty, sweet, earthy, pungent, and bold–each having a unique flavor and use in foods.
For this recipe, I go for white miso as it’s great for using in light sauces, dressings, and even marinades. The flavor profile of white miso is slightly sweet and nutty, which is ideal for this smashed cucumber salad and also pairs well with tahini. See here for the miso I use to for the tahini-miso dressing, which can be found at most Japanese or Asian markets.
Tips for Making this Recipe:
- Tools for Smashing: When smashing cucumbers, opt for the flat side of a chef’s knife or a rolling pin. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise, and proceed with smacking the skin side with your tool of choice. Pay attention to how much force you apply to each blow. Too hard and the cucumber will split into small pieces.
- Don’t Smack Too Hard: Aim for splitting cucumber while loosely maintaining its structure.
- Best Variety of Cucumber For This Recipe: Persian cucumbers are great to use for this salad. Due to its thinner skin, you don’t have to smack too hard in order to smash it.
- Must-Do If Not Salting: Should you decide to skip salting the cucumbers, simply wait to add the tahini-miso dressing until ready to serve. As sliced cucumbers sit, water draws out. If you pour dressing over cucumbers and leave it to sit, the dressing will water down, and no one wants that.
Looking for More Great Recipes?
Loving this Cucumber Salad with Tahini-Miso Dressing?
- 1 pound Persian cucumbers
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, I use Diamond Crystal brand
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 teaspoons white miso
- ½ teaspoon ginger, grated
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2½ teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon warm water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Drizzle over salad
- 1 tablespoon shallot ginger chili oil
- 1½ teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
Smash + Salt Cucumber
1. Cut cucumbers diagonally lengthwise.
2. Place cut side down on a cutting board.
3. Using the flat side of a chef’s knife or a rolling pin, smack the back of each cucumber until it splits. Slice diagonally into ½ inch pieces and place in a strainer and add kosher salt.
4. Mix cucumber well with hands and set aside (with a bowl underneath to catch water) for 20 minutes.
5. Start on dressing while waiting on cucumbers.
1. Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl.
2. Mix well until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
1. Make sure cucumbers are thoroughly drained.
2. Place cucumbers in a bowl.
3. Start with 2 tablespoons of tahini-miso dressing. Mix well and taste. Add more dressing is desired. Top with homemade chili oil and roasted sesame seeds.
4. Serve immediately.