Cucumber with Garlic and Sesame Oil
This is a simple, versatile side dish that people unfamiliar with Chinese cuisine enjoy immediately. The amount of garlic can be reduced, and the dark sesame oil and salt can be adjusted to taste.
- 1 long, thin-skinned cucumber (these are called both “Armenian” and “English” cucumbers—they have a matte and slightly ribbed skin, not the round and shiny look of a typical American cucumber, though you can use small American cucumbers if you peel them)
- ½ t. salt (kosher preferred)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- dark sesame oil, to coat
- Some recipes call for salting and then draining the cucumber pieces, but I find that most cucumbers I buy are not bitter at all, so this step is unnecessary. The Chinese name has the character for “smacked” in it because directions call for smacking or cracking the cucumber pieces to allow the flavors of the sauce to penetrate. This is not essential, and you can simply cut the cucumber into long slices and then in angled, bite-sized pieces.
- Sprinkle lightly with salt, toss, and then add the garlic and enough dark sesame oil to coat the cucumber pieces completely.
- Allow to stand for at least ten minutes before serving. Best if served the same day, but it’s delicious the next day, too. Add some to a pita sandwich!
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