This marinated cucumber salad with cilantro and garlic chips is light, refreshing, and packed with flavor. Keeping it in my dinner rotation all summer long!
Growing up in a Ukrainian home, cucumbers were a staple. Back in the old country, they were a daily treat in the summer. Then toward the end of their season, my mom would set out to preserve dozens (hundreds?) of them, so we’d have garlicky pickles to munch on in the winter.
Here in the States, they continued their reign over our vegetable drawer – except now we could have them year-round. To this day, though, nine out of our ten cucumbers find themselves in the standard Ukrainian side salad: with tomatoes, dill, onions, and sunflower oil. A winning combo, no doubt, though I’ve always had the nagging impression that cucumbers played second fiddle to tomatoes…
It wasn’t until I was exposed to Asian restaurants here in New York that I realized cucumbers can do pretty well on their own, thanks very much. I love how different the marinated cucumber salads I’ve tried at Korean, Chinese, and Japanese places are from what I grew up with. Thanks to ingredients like sesame oil and rice vinegar – and fun toppings like crushed peanuts or fried alliums – cucumbers can be the star.
This marinated cucumber salad is inspired by Win Son, a restaurant in Williamsburg. Their Taiwanese-leaning dishes are unique, vegetable-forward, and made and served with the utmost care. Their version is a bit different, but I’m crediting them for sparking this idea nonetheless. Let’s jump in!
What’s In This Cucumber Salad
This refreshing salad consists of sliced cucumbers that get marinated with salt, then dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and seasoned rice vinegar. The toppings really take it to the next level: sesame seeds, lots of cilantro, and garlic chips (thinly sliced fried garlic).
Marinated Cucumber Salad Step-by-Step
Prep the Cucumbers: Peel the cucumbers partially (leaving strips of skin behind), halve them lengthwise, then slice on a diagonal. Put cukes in a mesh strainer set over a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Chill in the fridge for ~15 minutes.
Make the Garlic Chips: Heat about half an inch of neutral oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add thinly sliced garlic and fry just until slightly golden, about 2 minutes. (Add chili flakes to the oil at the very end if you want some heat.) Immediately strain in a small mesh strainer set over a small bowl (reserve the oil). Then transfer chips to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil; the chips will crisp up as they cool. (More garlic chip tips below.)
Season the Cucumbers: Remove cukes from the fridge and drain any liquid that has pooled at the bottom of the bowl. Transfer cukes from the strainer to the bowl and season with soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar.
Serve the Salad: Transfer to a serving plate/shallow bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, cilantro, and garlic chips.
Tips for Making Garlic Chips
- You need a decent amount of oil to fry them (about 1/4 cup). But don’t worry – it won’t go to waste. Reserve the garlicky oil after frying and use it for roasting/sautéing vegetables, in dressings, etc.
- Choose a neutral-tasting, high smoke point oil. Avocado, refined coconut, and organic non-GMO canola are all good choices.
- If cooked incorrectly, garlic chips can turn out bitter. To avoid it, fry them in moderate heat for just a few minutes. Strain them as soon as they start to take on color around the edges – do not wait until they’re any darker. They will crisp up as they cool.
This marinated cucumber salad is crunchy, juicy, refreshing, and light. It’s great with fried or heavy foods, like tempura, grilled things, noodles, etc. This is best eaten right away, so hold off on dressing it until you’re ready to serve.
More salad ideas…
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
This Asian cucumber salad with cilantro and garlic chips is light, refreshing, and packed with flavor.
- 3 kirby cucumbers* (see note below)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- About 1/4 cup neutral oil, for frying (like avocado, refined coconut, or organic non-GMO canola)
- 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced*
- About 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
- About 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar*
- About 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro with tender stems
- Peel the cucumbers partially (leaving strips of skin behind), halve lengthwise, then slice into half-moons on a diagonal.
- Place cucumbers into a mesh strainer set over a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat in salt. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat about half an inch of neutral oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it takes on some color around the edges, about 2 minutes after it starts sizzling – do not wait until it is any darker, or the garlic will turn out bitter. (Add chili flakes to the oil at the very end if you want some heat.) Immediately strain the garlic into a small mesh strainer set over a bowl (reserve the oil*), then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. The chips will crisp up as they cool.
- Remove cukes from the fridge and drain any liquid that has pooled at the bottom of the bowl. Transfer cukes from the strainer to the bowl and season to taste with sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce.
- Transfer to a serving plate/shallow bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, cilantro, and garlic chips. Serve immediately.
- You can use any cukes you have: kirby, Persian, English, etc.
- If you don’t feel like frying garlic, top the salad with store-bought fried shallots.
- Seasoned rice vinegar is regular rice vinegar with salt and sugar added to it. If you don’t have any, sub with a splash of another mild vinegar and compensate with a sprinkle of sugar, if you feel the salad needs it.
- Repurpose the garlicky oil for roasting or sautéing vegetables, in dressings, etc.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 50
- Fat: 3.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 5.2 g
- Fiber: 0.7 g
- Protein: 0.9 g
Keywords: asian, cucumber, salad, vegan