Chinese Cucumber Salad

When my mother went through her Chinese cooking phase, which began when we moved Seattle, Washington, she was a whirling dervish in the kitchen. It was steamed buns, sea cucumbers, fried dumplings, whole baked fish, fermented bean sauce, dried shark’s fins, wintermelon soup, hot pot, and a lot of unidentifiable ingredients.

Our kitchen smelled like dried fish, just like the Chinese grocery store we would frequent at Pike Place market. If you want to read more about my mother’s crazy eccentric phase cooking for an uninspired husband and tweens with limited palates and even less patience, read Growing up Foodie.

I wasn’t much for vinegar or cucumbers when I was young. But I always remembered a Chinese cucumber salad my mother made. And I’m talking real cucumbers, not sea cucumbers.

When I married, I was gifted the set of Time Life Foods of the World cookbooks by my mother. At that point I had an improved palate. I made the cucumber out of this book, and have been making it ever since.

I love the salad because it’s a little salty, a little sweet, and it is rounded out with hot sauce and sesame oil. So many wonderful layers of flavor!

Because of my mother’s time working closely to her Chinese friend, Mrs. Chin, from whom she took Chinese cooking lessons, she learned lots of tricks, like this one.

Mrs. Chin always de-seeded cucumbers before using them by halving cucumbers lengthwise, and either cutting out or scooping out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. To this day I do it without thinking. I have nothing against cucumber seeds, but they’re watery.

It looks like I’m destroying the poor cucumber in the photo where I’m scraping the seeds out with a spoon. Definitely use a melon baller.

Then I salt the cucumber slices on the inside, turn them over on paper towels, and let them drip dry for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have the time, just wipe the insides with a paper towel after you’ve removed the seeds.

Here’s the recipe from the Chinese cookbook.

Cucumber Salad with Spicy Dressing
printable recipe below

2 medium cucumbers
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (or a little less)
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (or a little more)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel the cucumbers and cut them lengthwise in two. With a melon baller, scrape the seeds out of each half, leaving hollow boats.

Cut the cucumbers crosswise into 1/4” thick slices.

In a small glass bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame seed oil, Tabasco, and salt, and mix well.

Add the cucumber. With a large spoon, toss to coat each slice thoroughly with the dressing.

Chill slightly before serving.

And yes, I love hot sauce!

As a cold side dish at a Chinese meal, it will serve 4 to 6.

I sprinkled some black sesame seeds over the cucumber salad just for fun, even though they look like seed ticks. They are not.

My friend had recently gifted me with fresh tuna steaks, so I served them with the cucumber salad. It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal.


By Published On: June 19th, 201877 Comments on Chinese Cucumber Salad

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. June 19, 2018 at 7:14 AM - Reply

    Dried sharks’s fins? What did they taste like Mimi? I was just scrolling down your recipe there thinking “tuna steaks might go nicely with this cucumber salad” and there you’ve beaten me to it. I can imagine the taste of those steaks against the salty sweet hot sauce and sesame oil infused cucumbers must taste amazing!

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 7:17 AM - Reply

      Exactly. It was a lovely coincidence. I don’t know if I ate shark’s fins, which are hopefully illegal now. When my mother cooked we weren’t allowed in the kitchen because it stressed her out. I remember loving certain foods, but not fond of many…

  2. My Little Italian Kitchen June 19, 2018 at 7:19 AM - Reply

    I love the simplicity of this recipe. It is fresh and healthy and just perfect for summer.

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 7:28 AM - Reply

      And if you love Asian flavors, this is delicious perfection!

  3. David June 19, 2018 at 7:57 AM - Reply

    Wow. I am impressed by your mother! Crazy or eccentric, it must have been a good start for you in culinary exploration! I have to read the other post!

    Love Chinese cucumber salad. And Japanese cucumber salad, too. Both so light and refreshing!

  4. Gerlinde de Broekert June 19, 2018 at 8:31 AM - Reply

    You created a perfect meal with the salad and the ahi steak. I still have the Time Life German cookbook.

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 8:36 AM - Reply

      Me too! Well, I have the whole set. Never have made much out of the Scandinavian one, but the others are worn!

  5. jenniferguerrero1 June 19, 2018 at 8:34 AM - Reply

    Yeah, I kinda love your crazy mama. And hot sauce. :D

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 8:36 AM - Reply

      Hahahahaha! She worked so hard, and we were so unappreciative. But it’s hard to be 13 and be faced with a fried tiger lily on your plate. And turtles in your soup.

      • jenniferguerrero1 June 19, 2018 at 8:39 AM

        I bet! I wouldn’t eat anything when I was little. I fell asleep at the table in defiance on more than one occasion.

      • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 8:41 AM

        My crazy mama, was of the “eat everything on your plate” ilk, so dinnertime was scary!

      • jenniferguerrero1 June 19, 2018 at 8:41 AM

        I bet! I wouldn’t eat anything when I was little. I fell asleep at the table in defiance on more than one occasion. Lol!

  6. Dawn @ Girl Heart Food June 19, 2018 at 9:37 AM - Reply

    I love cucumber salad! This one sounds fabulous with the addition of sesame oil (love that stuff so much) and hot sauce. Nice for a summer bbq :) !!

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 10:43 AM - Reply

      I know. Don’t you want to drink sesame seed oil?!! To at least put some under your nose so you can keep smelling it…

  7. canelakitchen June 19, 2018 at 10:35 AM - Reply

    Mimi this is a really beautiful salad ! Love it!!!

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 10:42 AM - Reply

      Thank you! It’s very tasty and refreshing.

  8. Kelly, RD June 19, 2018 at 10:52 AM - Reply

    I love asian food and this is a perfect summer salad!

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 11:16 AM - Reply

      You’d definitely love this salad, Kelly!

  9. Craving4More June 19, 2018 at 11:15 AM - Reply

    I so love cucumber salad! And, I like your addition of Tabasco!!! :-)

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 11:15 AM - Reply

      The dressing has so many fabulous layers of flavor.

  10. 2pots2cook June 19, 2018 at 12:18 PM - Reply

    Love the salad but laughing because I cannot imagine my mother being a whirling dervish… she is so serious, not much of Italian blood running through her veins ……

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 1:37 PM - Reply

      Oh well. Whirling dervishes (I looked the term up) don’t really have good reputations!

      • 2pots2cook June 20, 2018 at 2:03 AM

        I understand it refers to someone that is messy and chaotic, in a cute way… LOL; besides, who cares about dancing reputation as long as it is creative and relaxing, anyway :-)

      • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 6:41 AM

        I truly looked it because I wasn’t sure why the term popped into my head. And there were a lot of negatives descriptions. They fit!

  11. Angela Runyan June 19, 2018 at 12:58 PM - Reply

    This sounds simply delicious! That Ahi looks yummy too.

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 1:36 PM - Reply

      Thanks, AngelA!

  12. Tasty Eats Ronit Penso June 19, 2018 at 3:08 PM - Reply

    Lovely and refreshing salad. Perfect to pair with the tuna steaks.
    Your mother’s crazy/eccentric phase is admirable, though it’s totally understandable it wasn’t so from a child’s point of view.

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 3:40 PM - Reply

      No, it was sometimes scary, and of course I wasn’t old enough to appreciate all of the great food.

  13. ladyredspecs June 19, 2018 at 6:25 PM - Reply

    Delicious! I make something similar, next time I’ll try your dressing…

    • chef mimi June 23, 2018 at 8:36 AM - Reply

      You’ll love it!

  14. Gather and Graze June 19, 2018 at 7:56 PM - Reply

    Love the story behind this salad Mimi… your dressed cucumber salad is so much more appealing than the thought of turtle soup and shark’s fins! I look forward to trying this very soon.

    • chef mimi June 19, 2018 at 7:57 PM - Reply

      Definitely !!!

  15. Tandy | Lavender and Lime June 19, 2018 at 10:56 PM - Reply

    I shall think of you when I eat pickled cucumbers as I always eat the middle part first where the seeds are so that I get extra crunch from the rest.

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 6:44 AM - Reply

      Isn’t that interesting!!! Once for Thanksgiving she made the pastry-wrapped whole salmon. (She never ever made turkey – I’m not sure why we ever celebrated Thanksgiving.) She was an artist, so she carved every single scale into that pastry, and it was so beautiful. 1968 – wish I’d taken a photo. But then, I was mad, cause I wanted turkey like most Americans!

  16. Ariasmith June 20, 2018 at 2:01 AM - Reply

    So simple and healthy salad with beautiful dressing!!I love your recipes and innovative Ideas as well !!

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 6:42 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much! I’m old so I’ve been cooking for a while!

  17. nahdalaskitchen June 20, 2018 at 6:06 AM - Reply

    Ooooh nice! I woke up this morning, thinking of a viciously hot szechuan duck for dinner today – when I suggested that one to hubby, he handed me the temperature forecast and informed me that a trip to the loony bin might be a better idea than a trip to our butcher’s. I think this beautiful salad, once chilled for an hour or so, might be the perfect side to a duck dish even on the hottest of days, perfectly capable of a) putting out the flames of the dish and b) of giving hubby back some faith in my sanity :D thanks for sharing this~

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 6:40 AM - Reply

      Hahahahaha! Yes, I can guarantee that this work pair beautiful with spicy Szechuan duck!

  18. kitchenriffs June 20, 2018 at 10:01 AM - Reply

    I usually deseed my cukes too, and always do when using them in a salad like this. Cucumber salads can be so good! I usually end up making a Hungarian-style cucumber salad, but Asian ones are wonderful too. Yours looks exceptional — thanks.

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 6:21 PM - Reply

      Huh, my comment disappeared! What exactly is a Hungarian cucumber salad? I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like that before, especially something raw!!!

  19. Sissi June 20, 2018 at 11:47 AM - Reply

    It looks like a perfect summer salad. I often read the Chinese traditionally don’t eat raw vegetables, but apparently it’s not true. Or maybe depends on the region…
    I would never think of adding tabasco to a Chinese dish but it sounds like a great idea!

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 12:03 PM - Reply

      Interesting. That could be true… But I guess this salad is an exception.

  20. Bill June 20, 2018 at 12:03 PM - Reply

    Gotta love your mom. I like the simplicity of this.

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 12:05 PM - Reply

      Ha! Yes, simple and so flavorful.

  21. heather (delicious not gorgeous) June 20, 2018 at 12:43 PM - Reply

    i love how refreshing this dish is! there’s a chili garlic sauce that i basically use on everything, and i bet it would be tasty in this too (:

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 1:17 PM - Reply

      Is it the chili garlic paste? Like Sambal Oelek or something like that? Love that stuff.

  22. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward June 20, 2018 at 1:11 PM - Reply

    Nice call on the heat from Tabasco!

    • chef mimi June 20, 2018 at 1:16 PM - Reply

      Oh, it’s a great addition!

  23. Frank Fariello June 22, 2018 at 7:09 AM - Reply

    Delicious! I make something quite like this when we eat Chinese at home, only with Sichuan chili oil instead of Tabasco. So easy but I love it.

    • chef mimi June 23, 2018 at 8:35 AM - Reply

      Sichuan chili oil is great, but this way you get to use sesame seed oil and then also add hot sauce!

  24. Jeff the Chef June 22, 2018 at 8:55 PM - Reply

    This cucumber salad sounds so interesting, yet so approachable. I’ve certainly never had anything like it.

    • chef mimi June 23, 2018 at 8:35 AM - Reply

      If you love Asian flavors then I can guarantee you’ll love this salad!

  25. Michelle June 22, 2018 at 10:03 PM - Reply

    Delicious! I do cucumbers the same way, but with a grapefruit spoon. It works great.

    • chef mimi June 23, 2018 at 6:58 AM - Reply

      Exactly. I knew there was some kind of serrated spoon but i couldn’t think of the name! Thank you! It seriously looks like I’m torturing the poor cucumber!

  26. Kevin Oluoch June 24, 2018 at 8:54 AM - Reply

    Wow! Love this

  27. Liz Berg June 24, 2018 at 10:43 AM - Reply

    Ooh, this sounds amazing! I love cucumbers and this is such a fun salad to add to our summer menu.

    • chef mimi June 24, 2018 at 11:05 AM - Reply

      And it is quite refreshing and full of flavors.

  28. Ron June 25, 2018 at 4:21 AM - Reply

    Mimi, this is a great easy recipe. We make the spicy dressing and keep it in the fridge, that way on Sushi takeaway night we just chop up some cukes and toss. Oh, I do miss Pike Place Market, used to be my go-to foodie mart.

    • chef mimi July 1, 2018 at 9:45 AM - Reply

      That’s a brilliant idea – I need to do that. It’s good on tomatoes, too. Yes, i have fond memories of Seattle in general, even tho I was 10-12 when we lived there.

  29. Loretta June 25, 2018 at 4:44 PM - Reply

    Reading through the ingredients, I know I would love this. Oh, I forgot to mention that I did make your white bean dip for the barbecue we hosted here last Friday. It was just lovely!

    • chef mimi June 25, 2018 at 5:02 PM - Reply

      Oh fabulous! And there are so many variations, as you can well imagine! I bet you didn’t miss tahini!

  30. shayari dil se August 6, 2018 at 2:25 PM - Reply

    nice follow me

    • Irene Yin August 9, 2018 at 4:16 AM - Reply

      Sure, like for like. Follow for follow. Anyone interestes?

  31. Irene Yin August 9, 2018 at 4:29 AM - Reply

    Cucumber is delicions, especially in Summer. It’s the best foods to supplement the moisture of the body. Actually, this way is more like Amercian foods. I have introduced some Chinese foods in my blog. If you guys are interested in Chinese foods, you may have a look at it.

    • chef mimi August 9, 2018 at 7:18 AM - Reply

      I will!

  32. BloomsandBeautifuls August 11, 2018 at 9:40 PM - Reply

    Oooh thank you! This looks great!

    • chef mimi August 12, 2018 at 7:20 AM - Reply

      It has lots of good flavors!

  33. Anonymous February 8, 2019 at 7:31 PM - Reply

    I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this recipe. My mother had this cookbook, and cooked from it often. I have always loved to flip through her cookbooks and one day when I was about 15 I happened upon this recipe. I LOVE cucumbers, and thought it looked interesting, so I got the ingredients and made it one day. Well, needless to say it became my all time favorite snack & I made it all the time for myself over the years. Well – there was some water damage at my mom’s condo when i was in my 20s & the book was lost. I’ve always made it from memory since then. But every now & then I put in the search terms “tobasco” “cucumbers” & “boat” (b/c I remember that description!) just in case b/c I always wanted to know the exact proportions of everything. I didn’t remember the name of the cookbook. My searches always turned up nothing until today! I’m so happy to have found it 25 years later! THANK YOU!

    • chef mimi February 9, 2019 at 10:12 AM - Reply

      Oh that’s very cool! I can’t remember if I listed the recipe exactly. Do you want me to check?

      • Anonymous February 9, 2019 at 10:39 AM

        That’d be great, thanks!

      • chef mimi February 9, 2019 at 5:05 PM

        Okay, i checked, and I did copy the recipe exactly. I remembered I use less sugar than specified, but just mentioned that and left the recipe as is. Have fun!

  34. Anonymous February 10, 2019 at 5:24 PM - Reply

    Great! I remember using less sugar too. Thanks so much for checking.

  35. Anonymous August 27, 2023 at 1:58 PM - Reply

    OMG – I had the same recipe book when I was in my 20’s and so sorry to say I somehow lost it and recently have been searching for this pickled cucumber recipe. I often made it but it’s been years and I was just about ready to “wing it” when I came across your blog. yay!! I love this! Thank You!

    • Chef Mimi August 27, 2023 at 4:25 PM - Reply

      You’re so welcome! It’s really hard to find any of the 22 (I think) cookbooks from this series. They were wonderful. But try on Amazon and some used book stores online. You never know!

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