After taste buds, knife skills are a chef’s most precious possession. Here’s a spring dish to hone your blade on: Japanese cucumber salad. It’s crunchy, it’s tart, and it brings a subtle breeze of ocean umami with the addition of green wakame seaweed. The first thing to do is to get the right kind of cucumbers. Search around in your favorite East Asian, Indian, or Middle Eastern grocery store for small, slender, and thin-skinned cucumbers. They can come under the name of Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian, or Persian cucumbers. These have smaller seeds, juicier flesh, and more fragrance than the American and English varieties. They’re cheapest in Chinatown, but you can also get great cucumbers at Japanese stores along with wakame seaweed, a green slippery number that brings an elusive savory richness to this lean dish.
Slice the cucumber into thin disks, half-moons, or whatever shape you like. Play around with different cuts to get different textures. There’s great joy to be found in slicing cucumbers; they’re firm, neat, and yield to the blade in a smooth satisfying whisper of bursting cells. Sharpen your knives and enjoy yourself.
If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or other tasty tidbits, contact DuanDuan at SnackBar.Kitchen@gmail.com.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Time: 10 minutes + marinating time
Japanese cucumbers (or Persian/Indian/Taiwanese cucumbers)
Wakame seaweed (sold in dried form at Japanese grocers)
- Soak a handful of wakame seaweed in cold water. They will expand to about five times their dried volume, so be sure to immerse them in a large bowl with plenty of water.
- Meanwhile, wash cucumbers, and slice thinly. If you got the right kind of small cucumbers then there’s no need to peel them, the skin is thin, fragrant and delicious. Try different cuts for different textures. Thinner cuts are delicate and juicy. Thicker cuts are good too, crunchy and satisfying, though it takes longer to marinate.
- Dilute rice vinegar with water to taste. Add sugar and salt to taste.
- Combine vinegar mixture, sliced cucumbers, and rehydrated wakame seaweed in glass or ceramic bowl. Cover and let sit in fridge for at least two hours to overnight. Enjoy chilled.