Cucumbers are a food I love as they are crunchy and juicy and incredibly refreshing. You will find me loading up my plate with cucumbers at any salad bar and when they are offered as garnishes at Thai restaurants, they help me cool down the heat from the chilis and I consider them an important part of the meal. There are recipes for cucumber salads from many countries and I remember my German grandmother making her special one with sour cream and lots of fresh dill. I've also had Jewish friends make me wonderful Israeli salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and lemon juice. But to this day, my favorites are the Asian style cucumber salads - all of them - including the Japanese version called Sunomono or even spicy Korean Cucumber Kimchi. My Mom often takes me to her favorite little Chinese restuarants in LA that serve a variety of small plates of various things like spiced peanuts, tofu salads, sliced beef tendon, sliced pig ears and salty pickled vegetables. Even there my first choice of three things for my plate will be Cucmber Salad that is garlicky and smoky with sesame oil.
Here's my version - I've adapted my Grandfather, Kingway Lowe's recipe and make this tangy salad regularly. It's great as one of several Chinese dishes and it has been quite popular whenever I have been invited to a potluck as it is a good counterpoint to heavier casseroles. It keeps well if made ahead and even can be kept overnight, but the cucumbers do become softer. It is very easy, fast to make and is just delicious!
Sesame Cucumber Salad
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Asian Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon or more of Chili Oil or Garlic Chili Paste
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame Seeds
Peel Cucumbers and cut in half. Scrape out seeds with small spoon then slice into 1/4 inch half moons. Put into bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add garlic, seasoned rice vinegar and chili paste. Stir to mix. Taste to adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with sesame seeds when ready to serve.
Five Element Analysis
Cucumbers, like all members of the squash family belong to the Earth Element. Using vinegar brings in a little of the Wood Element and the garlic adds the Metal Element. The black pepper and chili pepper perk up the dish with some Fire and the sesame seeds and sesame oil add the Water Element. It is a surprisingly balanced little salad!