Crunchy, tasty and refreshing, this Smashed Cucumber Salad is easy and quick to make. A classic spring and summer staple in Japan, this vibrant spicy cucumber salad is deliciously moreish on its own, and the perfect side for just about any meal!
Smashed Cucumber Salad
I just love cucumbers. I even grow cucumbers in my garden during the summer because I eat them almost every day, especially in spring and summer. Often they’re overlooked as just a supporting vegetable! This smashed cucumber salad unashamedly makes cucumber the star of the dish. You’ll love it!
I wanted to make something different and spicy from famous Japanese cucumber salad. Say hello to this smashed cucumber salad!
It's now one of my favourite cucumber salads and can be yours too.
In Japan, smashed cucumber salad is called tataki kyuri. Tataki/tataku means smashing or crushing, and kyuri is cucumber in Japanese.
These crushed cucumbers really are full of flavour and the varied texture – both crunchy and soft, is a sensation! One of the secrets to making this recipe pop is rayu – Japanese red chilli oil. You can find it readily at your local Japanese or Asian stores. It's also getting to be pretty widely available at regular supermarkets these days.
In this smashed cucumber salad recipe, I share a simple Japanese cooking technique called itazuri, salt rubbing on a board. This helps elevate a regular cucumber recipe to something special. Bring joy in your life and share it with loved ones! Read on!
Secret about This Smashed Cucumber Salad Recipe
You will love this salad recipe because it's:
- tangy, spicy and highly appetizing
- fresh, healthy and moreish
- super easy and quick, ready in 5 minutes!
- highly versatile
For me, when vinegar, oil and sugar are combined, something magical happens. It’s such a great combination and a perfect base for salad dressing or marinade.
Adding rayu (Japanese chilli oil) to this base really brings it alive. It's one of Japan's super ingredients and is used in lots of Japanese cuisine – gyoza, ramen, sauces, soups, pickling, and salads. So it’s good to have it on hand and get to know how you can use it. It’s a must for this recipe.
Why do you smash cucumbers?
Put simply, it tastes better. When cucumbers are cut with a knife. The surface is smooth and doesn’t hold the dressing and seasoning so well. But when it’s smashed, the structure breaks up and creates bumpy, uneven surfaces that capture the dressing and allows it to penetrate.
You don't even need a knife. Just break them by hand. This makes preparation so fast!
How to remove bitterness
Have you ever felt a bitterness when you eat cucumbers? There’s a reason for this. The bitterness is hidden under the cucumber skin, and that's why we sometimes remove it.
You can remove the bitterness with a simple Japanese cooking technique called itazuri. Ita means a board and zuri (suru) is rubbing in Japanese. This technique is often used for preparation of vegetables before slicing them.
There is nothing complicated here. All you do is place the cucumbers on the chopping board and sprinkle a pinch of salt on them. Then start pressing and rolling the cucumbers with the salt on them by hand until the moisture starts to appear on the surface. This takes only one minute!
What happens is the structure of the cucumber skin is broken with salt and the bitterness under the skin is removed. It's so easy!
The ingredients for this crushed cucumber
Which cucumbers should you use
I use Japanese cucumbers for this recipe. They are mild, and refreshing and have slightly melon-like flavour and sweetness.
If you cannot find them in your local shops, Lebanese cucumbers also work very well. They are smaller than English cucumbers (hot house cucumbers), and are similar to Japanese cucumbers in taste.
Ponzu: I love this all-purpose Japanese citrus sauce. It’s vinegary, punchy, and adds a slightly salter brightness to the dish. I strongly recommend using ponzu for this recipe.
If you cannot find it locally, you can try home made. Find the link in the ingredients below. It’s quick and easy to make.
Rayu: To make this smashed cucumber salad spicy, you must have Japan's super ingredient, rayu. You can find it easily in your local Japanese or Asian supermarkets. It can also be found easily at the local supermarkets these days.
Sesame seeds: I use hulled and toasted sesame seeds. My favourite is toasted golden sesame seeds. You can use any.
Sesame oil: Choose only toasted sesame oil which is more flavourful than others. The colour is orange-browny while non toasted sesame oil is yellow.
How to Make Smashed Cucumber Salad Super Fast
You want a quick way to prepare this salad? Just break the cucumbers with your hands – it’s fun!
Lay down a cucumber on a chopping board and sprinkle with salt. Then start rubbing and rolling the cucumbers and the salt with your hands. Apply a bit of pressure to allow the salt to break the surface of the cucumber a bit. You will start to see some moisture on the surface.
This technique is called itazuri in Japanese. It's how you release the bitterness hidden under cucumber (and other vegetable) skins. And it only takes one minute.
Quickly rinse them with running water and remove the water off the cucumber surfaces with a kitchen towel.
Hold a cucumber edge with fingers and start breaking the structure of it with a mortar or make do with something similar. Just avoid hitting your fingers! Once you break the structure of the cucumbers, it's easy to break them by hand.
Making smashed cucumber salad dressing
Add ponzu, toasted sesame oil, rayu, sesame seeds and sugar into a small container and combine them well with a spoon. Smashed cucumber salad dressing is ready! It's so easy and quick.
Just add one teaspoon of rayu. It's spicy and if you prefer a milder one, simply reduce it. It is possible to use a different type of chili oil but rayu works best and is more authentic.
Then pour the salad dressing onto the crashed cucumber.
That's it! Serve immediately. Enjoy!
FAQs for Smashed Cucumber Salad
Can you make this smashed cucumber salad in advance?
Yes! I make it when I cook my lunch and put it the fridge. Then I enjoy chilled and spicy cucumber salad as an appetizer for dinner. I love it!
If you'd like to make this cucumber salad much more in advance, I recommend preparing the cucumbers and the dressing separately and then combine before you serve. But really, it takes no time at all, so I just make it fresh.
Do you need peel cucumbers?
Both Japanese and Lebanese cucumbers have thin skins. No need to remove skins for these crushed cucumbers. If you use English cucumbers, they also have thinner skins, and so no need to remove them. For other cucumbers, I recommend peeling them to avoid bitterness.
Do you remove seeds?
Both Japanese and Lebanese cucumbers don't have developed seeds. So there’s no need to remove them. But English cucumbers are usually large and have seeds so cut them into half length ways, and remove them with a spoon.
MIKLIA Salad Recipes Collection
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Wakame Salad (Japanese seaweed salad)
Smashed Cucumber Salad
- 2 Japanese cucumbers (or Lenabese cucumbers)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (note 1)
Smashed cucumber salad dressing
- 3 tablespoons ponzu
- 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil (note 2)
- 1 teaspoon rayu
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon sugar (I use cane sugar)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Lay down the cucumbers on a chopping board and sprinkle salt on them.
- Start rolling and rubbing salt over the cucumber skins by hand, using some pressure. Add some pressure over it. Keep doing this until the surfaces become moisturized. It takes about one minute. Repeat the same for the other cucumber.
- Clean the surfaces of the cucumbers with running water, and dry them off with a kitchen towel.
- Lay down the cucumber on a clean chopping board. Hold one edge and break the structure of the cucumber with a mortar or similar. Break it up by hand into about one inch pieces. Place them in a medium sized bowl. Set aside
Smashed cucumber salad dressing
- Combine ponzu, sesame oil, rayu, sugar and sesame seeds with a spoon in a container.
- Pour the dressing over the smashed cucumbers and mix them up with a tablespoon. That's it! Serve immediately, and enjoy!
- The sea salt is used to rub over the cucumber skins. Or use kosher salt.
- Use toasted sesame oil which has orangery brown colour. Non-toasted sesame oil is a yellow colour. Toasted sesame oil is tastier and is more flavourful.
- For gluten-free, please make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce in the ponzu. Other ingredients in this recipe are all gluten-free.
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