Cucumbers are a great summer food, and in Beijing, they’re actually a common snack. When you take a walk in the park or head out to a tourist attraction or other landmark, you can see people just gnawing on fresh cucumbers as they walk. Impressed by this healthy habit, I purchased one from the local vendor in the park for 1 RMB, doing as the Chinese do. It tasted fresh and healthy, but if you want to pump up the flavor, try this quick recipe.
There are a lot of different kinds of cucumbers out there, but this oriental variety is what you’ll find most commonly in China, and we actually used to grow it in pots on our backyard patio at home in NJ.
They have small bumps that you can remove with some scrubbing, and they grow quite long. They’re great in a cucumber salad like this or in a pitcher of water with strawberries and lemons. What’s great about these is that they don’t have large seeds. Just use any seedless variety you can find or scoop out the seeds from regular garden cucumbers.
This salad is actually a really common way to prepare cucumbers in Chinese cuisine. It’s got a lot of raw garlic (Beijingers are uncommonly fond of strong garlic flavors) and soy. Serve as a salad or a side dish.
Peel or scrub the cucumbers (whichever you prefer) and cut them into 2 to 3 inch sticks. Put them into a large mixing bowl.
Drain any water that may have seeped out of the cucumbers and toss in the dressing.
Once the cucumbers are coated, garnish with toasted sesame seeds (if using) and serve immediately.
When I made this today it was about 97 degrees outside, and I chilled the cucumbers for about 15 minutes in the fridge before tossing them together.
I served the salad with a mildly sweet plum wine we bought while in Chengdu. The dish is light, cooling, and tasty!
Here’s the printable version: