The editors of the popular food journal Lucky Peach are clearly big fans of Asian food. Their new cookbook shows you easy ways to make excellent Asian dishes at home, like this easy-peasy cucumber salad.
Cucumbers are best in the summer, but hothouse specimens are in the supermarket and in most of our refrigerators year-round. This is a treatment that will perk up even the most chemically enhanced wintertime cuke.
This salad takes cues from Xi’an cooking (specifically the kind channeled at restaurants like Xi’an Famous Foods and Mission Chinese Food), pinning down the cooling flavor of cucumber under a savory-sour blast of black vinegar and a sting of chili heat. Do not skip the peanuts; like the rug in The Big Lebowski, they really tie the room together. And feel free to amp up the cilantro if you’re so inclined.
- 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan chili oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 Persian or Kirby cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons crushed roasted unsalted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
For the salad
Whisk together the vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves. Set the dressing aside.
Halve the cucumbers lengthwise. (If using English cucumbers, remove the seeds with a small spoon and discard.) Set them cut-side down on a cutting board and lightly smash them: Give them a couple angry thwaps with the side of a cleaver (or a large chef’s knife) until the cucumbers crack in a few places. (For less drama, just press down on them with the side of the knife.) Cut the abused cucumbers crosswise into ¾-inch-thick half-moons.
Toss the cucumbers in the dressing, portion them out onto plates, and top each serving with sesame seeds, peanuts, and cilantro.