Shanghai Smashed Cucumber Salad

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One quick announcement: the winner of the Des Moines Bacon Company giveaway is Lori of Lori’s Culinary Creation. Congrats to Lori and thanks to everyone who entered. I’ve another giveaway planned for you, so stay tuned!

When I visited Shanghai three years ago, every dinner I had on my trip started with cold appetizers, like smoked fish, drunken chicken, and smashed cucumber salad, which was my favorite. I was quite obsessed with the dish and had been wanting to recreate the dish at home, except that I couldn’t find that type of cucumber back in the States. Recently, I’ve discovered that Persian cucumbers are very similar to what I had in Shanghai. In terms of appearance, they are slender, deep green, and with a bumpy skin. They are also sweet, seedless, very crispy, and not as bitter as say, kirby or English cucumbers- all characteristics that make them perfect for this salad.

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This recipe is my rendition of the traditional dish. I’m using fish sauce and chicken bouillon powder here, which I find blend nicely into the vinaigrette. Soy sauce can be too pungent and overpowering sometimes.

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Smashing the cucumber with the back of a knife bruises and breaks it down into smaller pieces, which allow the cucumber pieces to soak up the flavors of the vinaigrette. The cucumbers are then marinated and chilled until serving, so that they take on a sweet, tangy, and refreshing taste.

I’m going to warn you in advance- this dish is pretty addictive! My sister Kelly (by the way, she writes a lifestyle blog here, so you should definitely check it out!), who hated cucumber all her life, took a bite and was forever changed. Who knows, maybe it will change your taste buds too.

Shanghai Smashed Cucumber Salad
(serves 4)

5 seedless Persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsps Chinese Jinjiang vinegar
¾ tbsp sugar
2 tbsps fish sauce
½ tsp chili garlic sauce
¼ tsp dark sesame oil
¼ tsp chicken bouillon powder

On a cutting board, smash cucumbers with flat side of knife and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces. In a bowl, whisk together garlic, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, and chicken bouillon powder. Add the cucumber pieces and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

*If you can’t find Persian cucumbers, you can use other types of cucumber and follow the recipe as is with this additional step: in a colander, toss cucumber pieces with about a tablespoon of salt and set it over the sink until some of the liquid is released from the cucumbers. Rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towel. This step removes the bitter juices and excess moisture so that the vinaigrette does not get watered down when the cucumbers are being marinated.

*Smash the cucumber to break it down slightly but not so much that it turns into mush.

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