Return to site

Chinese Cucumber Salad

raw, vegetarian, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free
Chinese Cucumber Salad
qiang huang gua
We discovered this simple cucumber salad whilst living in Beijing in 2007 and we have never forgotten it since. Liang cai, cold dishes like these, are traditionally served at the beginning of the meal, unlike the deep-fried nonsense that is served at Chinese restaurants in the West. Without fail, this little cucumber number is present at the dinner table every time we throw a Chinese dinner party. It is such a crowd pleaser and so easy to make. It is truly mind-boggling how this quintessentially Chinese dressing can transform an ordinary vegetable into an explosion of flavours in your mouth. 
This recipe only begins to scratch the surface of the rich tradition of frugal, healthy and delicious Chinese home cooking which is actually centred on vegetables. As Fuchsia Dunlop so accurately puts it: 
"With all the fuss over the Mediterranean diet, people in the West tend to forget that the Chinese have a system of eating that is equally healthy, balanced, sustainable and pleasing. Perhaps it's the dominance of Chinese restaurant food - with its emphasis on meat, seafood and deep-frying as a cooking method - that has made us overlook the fact that typical Chinese home cooking is centred on grains and vegetables."
- Fuchsia Dunlop
Good thing about these cold dishes, is that they can be made in advance and ready on the table when guests arrive. Chilli, garlic, ginger, sesame and Sichuan peppercorn come together to deliver a dish that is not only bursting with nutrition and antioxidant properties but also utterly addictive and moreish. 
The original recipe is actually not strictly raw as it calls to heat the oil, cook the chilli and peppercorn but I have transformed this into a raw salad that is just divine and actually much quicker and simpler to make. As always, my knowledge of traditional Chinese recipes and flavours continues to inspire my healthy cooking and to transform genuine Chinese dishes into delicious, vibrant and nutritious raw dishes. 
Cucumber cuddles,
  • 1 long cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
  • To garnish:
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
  • Pinch of ground Sichuan peppercorn


1. Slice off the two ends of the cucumber. Then cut the cucumber into thin slices with a good knife or a mandolin.

2. Pour tamari, black vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger in the bowl with the cucumber slices. Mix thoroughly and leave to marinate.

3. Adjust seasoning with salt (or tamari) and vinegar to taste. Ideally leave to marinate for a few hours for maximum depth of flavour, but it will still taste divine immediately.

4. Garnish with fresh red chilli, fresh coriander and a pinch of ground Sichuan peppercorn.