is any Chinese meal really complete without a dish of this tangy garlicky cucumber salad (pai huanggua) on the side?
it’s kinda fun to make because you get to smash a cucumber (quite literally, with the broad side of a knife), splitting it open and creating craggy edges and rough surfaces that better absorb the flavors of the sauce— a piquant mix of soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and a pinch of sugar, with a drizzle of garnet-red chili oil for heat, if you’re feeling it. toss the cucumbers in the sauce and adjust until the flavors sing. it’s such an ubiquitous dish and very refreshing, I’m particularly fond of it in the summer
Smacked Cucumber Salad / 拍黄瓜
1/2 pound (300g) cucumbers (about 1 large or 3-4 small. I prefer Persian or Japanese cucumbers because they have thinner skin and minimal seeds)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar or clear rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
optional: 1/2 tbsp Sichuan chili oil (with sediment), 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or 1 tsp finely chopped fresh chili pepper
Trim ends of cucumber. Lay on a chopping board and smack it a few times with the flat blade of a wide cleaver or a rolling pin. Cut lengthways into four pieces, then cut on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces. Place in a shallow bowl and sprinkle evenly with salt, and set aside until cucumbers release water, about 10 minutes. Drain off any water and add the rest of the sauce ingredients, tasting and adjusting seasonings as desired. Let sit to marinate for 30 minutes before serving. Will store covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.