This Chinese Cucumber Salad is simple and refreshing, with a mild garlic flavor balanced with the perfect amount of salt and rice vinegar. The secret is making a mild garlic oil in addition to a little bit of raw garlic!
What’s Different About This Cucumber Salad?
Chinese cucumber salads are hugely popular these days. Smashed, chopped, salted, chili oil-ed, and vinegar-ed they’re a great option for easy summer dinners, as an appetizer, or served with bowls of noodles for an easy vegetable.
The flavors for a cucumber salad are often strong and spicy. This Garlic Cucumber Salad results in a mild flavor that’s a non-spicy alternative to my mom’s Smashed Asian Cucumber Salad, which is loaded up with raw garlic, chili oil, soy sauce, and cilantro.
What’s more, I’ve found that a lot of Garlic Cucumber Salad recipes out there offer up substitutions and mixtures of Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar, and highly variable ratios of raw garlic to cucumber, and soy sauce to sesame oil.
I’ve come to have a new appreciation for a simple, pure garlic Chinese cucumber salad—and the ratios to get there! It can be tricky to pull off if you’re not paying attention!
Perfect for Summer Cucumbers
My mom grows cucumbers in our backyard every summer, so we have cucumbers all season for quick and tasty cucumber salads like this one, which round out dinners and offer a cooling dish to combat the summer heat.
In fact, the cucumbers you see here are from her garden! As you’re selecting cucumbers, it’s best to use ones that have fewer seeds like English or Persian cucumbers, but you can use any kind you have on hand––just be sure to deseed as needed.
Chinese Cucumber Salad Recipe Instructions
First prepare the garlic. When you’ve minced all of the garlic, set aside the equivalent of 1 clove.
Mix the oil and the rest of the garlic together, and set over medium-heat in a saucepan. Cook lightly for 2-3 minutes. Some foam will appear as the water in the garlic escapes. Do not let the garlic brown! This process takes about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Chop the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and then into ½-inch chunks. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the garlic oil, salt, sugar, pinch of MSG if using, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Finally, add the reserved minced raw garlic.
Stir thoroughly to coat everything.
For the best results, let sit for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld.