Smashed Shito Cucumber Salad

updated Jun 16, 2023
summer
Smashed Shito Cucumber Salad Recipe

It’s all about big flavor and the spicy-fresh contrast between cool, crisp cucumbers and shito, a smoky Ghanian hot pepper sauce.

Serves4

Makesabout 5 1/2 cups

Prep15 minutes

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overhead shot of a bowl filled with smashed shito cucumber salad placed on a sandy tan surface
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

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Two summers ago, I cross-tested this recipe for Sichuan smashed cucumber salad, and I have been thinking about it ever since. This shito cucumber salad is my West African response to Elsie’s Sichuan-style one, which I enjoyed on repeat that summer. The biggest differences are that I use shito in place of Sichuan sauce and red palm oil instead of sesame oil — though sesame oil works here just as well! 

Just like in Elsie’s version, the final result is a bowl of perfection — crispy, cool cucumbers, the smoky heat of shito, and the buttery taste of palm oil, finished with lime juice and soy sauce.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

A Ghanaian Pantry Staple  

Shito is a very common Ghanaian hot pepper sauce, in fact, shito actually means pepper in the Ga language. It has a very deep red color from the sauce being thoroughly cooked down until the liquid in the peppers, tomatoes, and onions has evaporated.  

When I lived in Los Angeles, my ex-boyfriend and I would frequent an African food store run by a Ghanaian family. The store was loaded with different spices and seasonings, as well common ingredients in West African cooking, and loads of familiar snacks from our childhoods. We had a friendly rivalry because I’m Nigerian and he’s Ghanaian, so being from neighboring countries we were always jokingly trying to one up each other. The day he introduced me to shito was a day he succeeded wholeheartedly. 

Upon first seeing shito, I was reminded of various chili crisps from Chinese-owned brands, like Fly by Jing, that I had seen and tasted before. When I actually tasted the shito, I was immediately struck by how much similarity there was between shito and chili crisp, but also how drastically different they tasted. Shito typically includes the use of ground dried fish and/or shrimp in the mixture, and the flavor it adds is mouthwatering. To me, shito is the definition of umami flavor. 

Smashed Shito Cucumber Salad Recipe

It’s all about big flavor and the spicy-fresh contrast between cool, crisp cucumbers and shito, a smoky Ghanian hot pepper sauce.

Prep time 15 minutes

Makes about 5 1/2 cups

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    Persian or mini seedless cucumbers (9 to 10)

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/4 small bunch

    fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish

  • 2

    medium limes

  • 3 tablespoons

    shito

  • 2 tablespoons

    soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons

    red palm oil or toasted sesame oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted, roasted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Trim the ends off 1 1/2 pounds Persian or seedless mini cucumbers. Using the flat side of a large chef’s knife or cleaver, firmly tap (or crush) the entire length of the cucumbers to release their juices. Wipe the cutting board dry and slice the cucumbers crosswise on a slight diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices (about 5 cups).

  2. Transfer the cucumbers to a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and toss to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, prepare the following, adding each to the same large bowl as it is completed: Mince 2 garlic cloves. Coarsely chop 1/4 small bunch cilantro and tender stems (about 1/4 cup). Juice 2 medium limes until you have 1/4 cup.

  4. Add 3 tablespoons shito, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons red palm oil or toasted sesame oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk until combined.

  5. When the cucumbers are ready, add to the bowl of dressing and toss until fully coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour up to overnight. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Top with 2 tablespoons unsalted, roasted peanuts. Garnish with more chopped cilantro before serving if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: This salad can be made up to a day ahead, and will help flavors permeate the cucumber even further. However, this will also result in a spicier salad. Top with the peanuts right before serving.

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.