TJ Lee’s Taiwanese Cucumber Salad

updated Aug 24, 2023
Taiwanese Cucumber Salad Recipe

Rice vinegar and mirin are flavor stand-outs in this crunchy, cold salad.

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes

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overhead photo of cucumber salad with dressing, chili flakes, sesame seeds in white bowl. small bowl of sesame seeds in bottom right. glass of lychee soda in top left. black, white and gold napkin and chopsticks
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Andie McMahon

When it comes to a lot of Asian cuisines, there’s always something nice and crunchy and cold on the side during lunch or dinner. In Korean food there’s pickled radish, in Vietnamese cooking there’s daikon and carrots, and in Taiwanese cuisine we have pickled cabbage and this cucumber salad.

There’s a very popular restaurant in Taiwan called Din Tai Fung, where people go get soup dumplings, and one of the little appetizers they serve is a crisp cucumber salad. I love the restaurant and recommend it to friends who visit Taiwan and knew I wanted to recreate the dish one day.

The ingredients for it are quite simple — rice vinegar and mirin all mixed together with sesame oil, chili oil, and lots of minced garlic — and the salad can easily be made ahead. It’s super refreshing and is especially great to have with meals like hot pot.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Andie McMahon

This recipe was part of the 2021 Thanksgiving Food Fest.

Taiwanese Cucumber Salad Recipe

Rice vinegar and mirin are flavor stand-outs in this crunchy, cold salad.

Prep time 10 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 5

    Persian cucumbers (about 1 pound total)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/4 cup

    rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons

    mirin

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons

    toasted sesame oil

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili crisp, such as Lao Gan Ma (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon

    white sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Trim and cut 5 Persian cucumbers crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Place in a strainer set over or a bowl or in the sink, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and toss to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the marinade.

  2. Mince 3 garlic cloves (2 teaspoons) and place in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons mirin, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons chili crisp if desired. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  3. When the cucumbers are ready, rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with towels. Place the cucumbers in a large zip-top bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag. Lay the bag flat in the refrigerator so the cucumbers sit in a single layer. Let the cucumbers marinate at least 4 hours or up to overnight, flipping the bag halfway through.

  4. To serve, remove the cucumbers from the marinade and stack cut-side up on a serving plate. Garnish with 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover cucumber salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.