This spicy Asian cucumber salad is a light and refreshing side dish that you can serve with any meal. While there are many variations of this cucumber salad, this recipe is a fusion between my Korean and Chinese heritage. It includes ingredients that were commonly found in my family’s pantry, like gochugaru and Chinese black vinegar.
I’ve been craving a cold and refreshing side dish lately, and after seeing all these slinky cucumber videos on social media, I knew I had to try it for myself. These slinky cucumbers are irresistibly cute, delicious, and easy to make! It’s spicy, tangy, and super refreshing.
Making these was so much fun because they brought back memories of my childhood. They reminded me so much of Slinkies (the real ones know heh).
If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy cucumbers, give my recipe a try! 🙂
Why you’ll love this recipe
Cucumbers are refreshing on their own, but it’s nice to jazz them up into a deliciously spicy salad sometimes. This recipe is the definition of spicing them up with the addition of gochugaru and chili oil which turns up the heat. The sauce is made up of a flavorful combination of spicy, sweet, salty, and tangy – the best of all worlds!
While you can keep the cucumbers simple by just cutting them up or smashing them, cutting them into slinkies makes them taste more delicious, in my opinion! They might take practice, and by practice, I mean once or twice. But once you get the hang of it and understand the angles to cut them in, you’ll be making these in no time!
This is not to say that you have to cut the cucumbers this way. Feel free to experiment with different shapes – the recipe will turn out just as delicious!
How do I prepare Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad?
All the ingredients you need are relatively pantry-friendly making this a straightforward recipe. Plus, it’s very easy to make and deliciously good! To get started, just follow the steps below:
Step 1: Prepare the cucumbers
Cut or smash the cucumbers. If you want the ‘slinky’ effect, lay the cucumbers in between two chopsticks. Then, cut them into 1/4-inch slices vertically, making sure not to cut all the way through. The chopsticks will act as a barrier just in case! Flip the cucumber cut side down. Cut into a 45-degree angle into 1/4-inch slices.
You can also take a peek at the video below to see how I cut them! 😊
Step 2: Season the cucumbers
Transfer the cucumbers into a bowl and add salt. Mix together and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes. This process is called ‘sweating’, which draws out the excess moisture from the cucumbers to make them extra crunchy.
Step 3: Make the sauce
While the cucumbers are ‘sweating’, let’s prepare the sauce! Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, black vinegar, gochugaru, chili oil, garlic, and sesame seeds in a bowl. Mix them together well and set aside.
Step 4: Rinse the cucumbers
After 20 to 30 minutes, rinse the cucumbers in cold water, and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Step 5: Combine the ingredients
Once the cucumbers are dry, transfer them to a bowl and toss them with the sauce mixture.
Step 6: Serve
Serve the spicy cucumbers as an appetizer or side dish. Enjoy!
Preparation Tips for Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
You don’t need any special skills to make this recipe, but here are a few tips and tricks you can keep in mind to make the most delicious salad every time:
- For best results, I recommend making this at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors of the sauce to absorb into the cucumber. I think it tastes even better chilled. You can make this up to 3 days in advance. Just be sure to serve it chilled.
- Be sure to wash the cucumbers thoroughly after ‘sweating’ them in salt. This process helps to get rid of excess salt and prevent the dish from getting too salty.
- I highly recommend using chopsticks when cutting the cucumbers into slinkies. It will help create a barrier and prevent you from cutting all the way through.
- If you prefer to smash the cucumbers, you can use a meat mallet or rolling pin to break them into smaller pieces.
- Feel free to adjust the amount of gochugaru and chili oil added to the sauce based on your preferred spice level.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Persian cucumbers: Persian cucumbers are less watery than other varieties, making them perfect for this recipe. Indian cucumbers are also similar. However, if you can’t find either, you can also use Kirby cucumbers. I don’t recommend English cucumbers for this because the skin is quite tough.
Sesame oil: sesame oil adds a nutty taste to round out the sweet, salty, and tangy flavors of the salad.
Sugar: sugar will round out the flavors of the sauce. Feel free to use white or brown sugar for this recipe.
Chinese black vinegar: Chinese black vinegar is a combination of tangy, fruity, and umami flavors. It’s also slightly sweet compared to other vinegar varieties. You can also substitute it with rice vinegar or white vinegar.
Gochugaru: gochugaru provides a smoky and spicy taste. You could also use Szechuan chili flakes.
Chili oil: chili oil will add another layer of spiciness to this dish. If you like, you can even try my homemade Korean Chili Oil recipe!
Garlic cloves: garlic cloves have a distinct flavor and aroma that makes any dish taste better.
Sesame seeds: adding sesame seeds is completely optional, but they can enhance the flavors of the sesame oil and add a nice textural crunch. If you can’t find them at the store, you can also omit them completely.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to salt the cucumbers?
Yes! I highly recommend that you don’t skip this step because it really draws out the moisture from the cucumbers, making them crunchier. If you don’t salt the cucumbers and mix them in the sauce, it will turn watery as it sits. The salt also penetrates into the cucumber which imparts flavor. Skipping this step will change the dish completely.
Can I cut the cucumbers thinly instead of in spirals?
Yes, you can definitely keep it simple by cutting the cucumbers thinly. Keep in mind that the thinner they are, the faster the sauce will absorb into them.
Why is my cucumber salad bitter?
The common culprit to a bitter cucumber salad is the cucurbitacin. It’s a natural compound found in all cucumber varieties. Sadly, you can’t fix a bitter cucumber salad, but you can prevent it by cutting the ends and peeling the skin off of your cucumbers. English cucumbers are commonly known for this, which is why I don’t recommend it for this recipe.
If you prefer to leave the skin on for this dish, I recommend you use less bitter cucumber varieties like Persian, Indian, or Kirby cucumbers.
What does black vinegar taste like?
Black vinegar is a medley of fruity, tangy, and sweet flavors since it’s made from fermented sticky rice, sorghum, millet, and wheat. For comparison, it’s less sweet than balsamic vinegar but has a more intense flavor than white wine vinegar. I prefer to use black vinegar for this recipe because it adds more complexity to the flavors than regular vinegar would.
Can you store Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad?
If you have any leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge. It can keep well for 3 days, so make sure to consume it by then. Expect that the cucumbers will be a bit watery and the texture will be slightly softer, but they’ll still taste delicious when you eat them straight out of the fridge!
Looking for more easy and delicious Asian-inspired vegetable salad recipes?
If you’re looking for more inspiration to level up your vegetable dishes, you can check out these recipes below:
1. Korean Cucumber Kimchi – if you can’t get enough of this spicy salad, try my Korean Cucumber Kimchi recipe. It isn’t as salty as regular kimchi, so it can be eaten by itself as a salad. It’s an excellent companion for Korean BBQ, rice, or noodles, making it the ultimate summer salad!
2. Chinese Cucumber Garlic – if you want to take a break from the spice, this flavorful cucumber dish is for you. It’s a classic Chinese cucumber garlic salad that perfectly balances salty, sweet, and acidic flavors that only take 30 minutes to make.
3. Vietnamese Tomato Salad – for a light and refreshing salad, this Vietnamese-inspired side dish is exactly what you’re looking for. It has a nice balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and sour, and I love that you can make this in just 10 minutes!
4. Korean Radish Salad (Musaengchae) – this spicy, savory, and crunchy side dish is one of my favorites. It’s usually paired with Bossam (Korean Boiled Pork Belly), but it will still hit the spot if you serve this with any meal!
5. Asian Pickled Red Onions – this recipe isn’t technically a salad, but it tastes great as a side dish in almost any dish! It’s sweet, tangy, and spicy, and you’ll be surprised by the floral and citrus fragrance that the Szechuan peppercorns add!
Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
- 4-5 persian cucumbers
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp black vinegar substitute with rice vinegar or white vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp gochugaru Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tbsp chili oil
- 4 garlic cloves grated
- 1 tsp sesame seeds plus more for garnish
- Cut or smash the cucumbers. If you want the 'slinky' effect, lay the cucumber in between to chopsticks. Cut the cucumber into 1/4 inch slices vertically, making sure not the cut all the way through. Flip the cucumber and cut into a 45 degree angle into 1/4 inch slices.
- Transfer the cucumbers into a bowl and add salt. Mix together and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
- In the meantime, let's prepare the sauce. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, black vinegar, gochugaru, chili oil, garlic, and sesame seeds. Mix together well.
- After 20-30 minutes, rinse the cucumbers in cold water and pat dry well with a paper towel.
- Transfer to a bowl and toss with the sauce mixture.
- Serve and enjoy!
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