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Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad

Chinese cuisine is known for its incredible diversity and rich flavors, often incorporating a balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy elements in its dishes. One such delightful and refreshing dish is the Chinese Cucumber Salad, also known as “拍黄瓜” (pronounced “pāi huáng guā”), which translates to “smashed cucumber.” This simple yet flavorful salad is a staple in many Chinese households and is often served as a side dish or appetizer. It’s perfect for hot summer days when you need something cool and refreshing.

Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad

What is Chinese Cucumber Salad?

A Brief Introduction

Chinese Cucumber Salad is a cold dish made with cucumbers that are smashed to create a rough texture, and then seasoned with a mix of garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and other ingredients. The smashing technique helps the cucumbers absorb the flavors more effectively, resulting in a salad that’s both crunchy and full of flavor. This salad is not only easy to prepare but also highly customizable, allowing you to adjust the ingredients according to your taste preferences.

Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Ingredients and Their Importance

The ingredients for this salad are straightforward and easily accessible. Here’s a closer look at each component and its role in the dish:

  • Cucumbers: The star of the dish. Use firm, fresh cucumbers for the best texture. Persian or English cucumbers are ideal because they have fewer seeds and thinner skins.
  • Garlic: Adds a robust, aromatic flavor that complements the freshness of the cucumbers.
  • Soy Sauce: Provides a salty, umami depth to the salad.
  • Vinegar: Typically, rice vinegar is used, adding a tangy acidity that balances the other flavors.
  • Sesame Oil: A few drops of sesame oil give the salad a nutty, aromatic finish.
  • Sugar: A touch of sugar helps balance the acidity of the vinegar and the saltiness of the soy sauce.
  • Salt: Enhances the overall flavor and helps draw out excess water from the cucumbers.
  • Chili Oil: Optional, but adds a spicy kick for those who enjoy a bit of heat.
  • Sesame Seeds: For garnish, add a subtle crunch and nutty flavor.
Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

How to Make Chinese Cucumber Salad

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the Cucumbers

Start by washing the cucumbers thoroughly. Once clean, cut off the ends and then slice the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters. Place the cucumber quarters on a cutting board and use the flat side of a large knife or a rolling pin to gently smash them. This technique breaks up the cucumber flesh, allowing it to absorb more of the dressing.

After smashing, cut the cucumbers into bite-sized pieces. If the cucumbers have a lot of seeds, you can remove some of them at this stage. Transfer the smashed cucumbers to a colander and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Toss to coat and let them sit for about 15-20 minutes. This step helps draw out excess water, making the cucumbers crisper.

Step 2: Prepare the Dressing

While the cucumbers are draining, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine minced garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and a few drops of sesame oil. If you like it spicy, add a spoonful of chili oil or some crushed red pepper flakes. Mix well until the sugar dissolves and the ingredients are fully combined.

Step 3: Assemble the Salad

After the cucumbers have drained, give them a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, then pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Place the cucumbers in a large bowl and pour the dressing over them. Toss gently to coat the cucumbers evenly with the dressing. Let the salad sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

Step 4: Garnish and Serve

Before serving, sprinkle the salad with toasted sesame seeds for added texture and flavor. You can also add chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or scallions if you like. Serve the salad chilled or at room temperature as a refreshing side dish.

Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Variations and Tips

Customizing Your Salad

One of the best things about Chinese Cucumber Salad is its versatility. Here are some ideas to customize and enhance your salad:

  • Add Protein: For a more substantial dish, you can add cooked shrimp, shredded chicken, or tofu.
  • Use Different kinds of vinegar: Experiment with different types of vinegar such as apple cider vinegar or black vinegar for a unique flavor twist.
  • Incorporate Other Vegetables: Add thinly sliced bell peppers, carrots, or radishes for extra crunch and color.
  • Play with Spices: Adjust the level of spice by adding more or less chili oil or incorporating Sichuan peppercorns for a numbing sensation.

Tips for the Best Salad

  • Use Fresh Cucumbers: Fresh, firm cucumbers will give you the best texture and flavor.
  • Don’t Skip the Salting Step: Salting the cucumbers is crucial for removing excess moisture and intensifying their crunch.
  • Balance the Flavors: Taste the dressing before adding it to the cucumbers and adjust the ingredients to achieve a perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.
  • Serve Immediately: This salad is best enjoyed fresh. If you need to make it ahead, keep the cucumbers and dressing separate until just before serving.
Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Nutritional Benefits

Health Benefits of Cucumbers

Cucumbers are not only low in calories but also packed with essential nutrients. Here are some health benefits of cucumbers:

  • Hydration: Cucumbers are about 95% water, making them an excellent choice for staying hydrated.
  • Rich in Nutrients: They are a good source of vitamins C and K, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Antioxidants: Cucumbers contain antioxidants, including flavonoids and tannins, which help fight inflammation and protect cells from damage.
  • Aids in Digestion: The high water and fiber content in cucumbers can help prevent constipation and support a healthy digestive system.

Benefits of Garlic and Vinegar

  • Garlic: Known for its medicinal properties, garlic can boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar, especially rice vinegar, aids digestion, helps control blood sugar levels, and adds beneficial acetic acid to the diet.
Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Serving Suggestions

Pairing with Other Dishes

Chinese Cucumber Salad pairs well with a variety of dishes, making it a versatile addition to any meal. Here are some serving suggestions:

  • With Rice Dishes: Serve alongside fried rice, steamed jasmine rice, or sticky rice.
  • As a Side to Grilled Meats: Complement grilled chicken, beef, or pork beautifully.
  • With Noodles: Enjoy with cold sesame noodles or stir-fried noodles for a refreshing contrast.
  • As part of a Chinese Meal: Include it in a spread of Chinese dishes such as dumplings, spring rolls, and stir-fries for a complete meal experience.

Refreshing and Light

This salad is particularly refreshing during hot weather, offering a cool and light contrast to heavier dishes. Its crisp texture and vibrant flavors make it an excellent palate cleanser and a delightful addition to any summer meal.

Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad

Nutrition Chart for Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad

Servings: 4

NutrientAmount Per Serving
Total Fat3g
– Saturated Fat0g
Total Carbohydrates4g
– Dietary Fiber1g
– Sugars2g

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet.


  • Cucumbers
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar


Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜) is a simple, flavorful dish that embodies the balance and harmony characteristic of Chinese cuisine. With minimal ingredients and a straightforward preparation process, it’s an easy way to bring a taste of China to your kitchen. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, this salad is a perfect addition to your culinary repertoire, offering both taste and nutritional benefits.

So next time you’re looking for a quick and refreshing side dish, give this Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad a try. Your taste buds will thank you for the delightful mix of flavors and the satisfying crunch of the cucumbers. Enjoy!

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