This easy to make Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad with garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and vinegar is one of the most popular homemade cold food recipes in China! It is bursting with fresh, sweet, sour and spicy flavors in every crunchy bite and makes the perfect refreshing side dish that you can bring together in just a few minutes!
This Homemade Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad is a must-try!
I love Asian cuisines and I love light summer salads! They’re loaded with flavors and make a great meal when it is too warm to bother turning on the stove! My Vegan Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce have saved me a lot of times!
This is another recipe that doesn’t require cooking, rather it requires smashing! You read it right! Have you ever heard of or tried making salad by smashing the ingredient as part of preparation? It sure is interesting and unique and can be lots of fun too!
I made this Asian-inspired salad using that technique and was blown away! All those amazing flavors coming from the salad dressing seeped into all the cracks and chinks making it gratifyingly delicious! You have to try it.
What is Pai Huang Gua?
Chinese cucumber salad, also known as “Pai Huang Gua” or “smashed cucumbers”, is a popular Sichuan dish that is typically served with rich, spicy food. It is made by smashing or whacking the cucumber until cracks are formed and it splits open before cutting them into bite-sized pieces and combing with the dressing. As bizarre as it sounds, this is actually a great food prep technique. Let me tell you why.
Why do you smash cucumbers?
By crushing the cucumber, small cracks and fractures are created that mere cutting can never achieve. This makes it easier for the excess liquid to be drained and leaves all the crunchy pieces behind. When you add the salad dressing, these little nooks are crannies that will absorb and hold the dressing right up! And that is where the magic happens! Imagine chewing on this crunchy, flavor-filled salad! The explosion of the multitude of flavors and texture is irresistibly good!
- For the Salad: Cucumber, coriander, and red onions make the perfect light, crisp salad base. The coolness of the cucumber, refreshingly zesty coriander leaves and sharp, sweet red onion is not only super healthy and tasty but visually appealing too.
- For the dressing: Garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, and agave syrup makes the quintessential Asian salad dressing that epitomizes classic oriental flavors!
- To garnish: The salad and dressing are great as they are, but adding some toppings amps the dish even more! I prefer paprika powder, chili peppers or chili flakes, green onions, sesame seeds or crushed peanuts.
How to make Smashed Cucumber Salad
As always, I recommend checking out this step-by-step instruction first. Then you’ll find the full recipe with exact measurements in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Smash cucumber and drain
Use a rolling pin or meat tenderizer and smash the cucumber until it split open into the sides. Then cut into bite-sized pieces, and place in a strainer with a bowl underneath. Add the salt and mix to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes to release the excess liquid.
Step 2: Whip up the dressing and serve
In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients for the dressing. Drain the cucumber, pour away the liquid, then transfer the drained cucumber back to the bowl. Add coriander, onions, and the dressing and stir to combine. Finally, garnish your cucumber salad with toppings as you like.
Tips when Making this Smashed Cucumber Salad
- I used a rolling pin to smash the cucumbers. However, you may also use a meat tenderizer, mallet, pestle, or anything heavy you can find. If you will be using a meat tenderizer, make sure to use the smooth side. The aim is to smash until it bursts open, do not overdo it.
- To prevent any dislodged pieces from flying around, you can cover the cucumber in plastic wrap first before smashing it.
- It is important to salt the cucumbers to get rid of the excess water. Let it rest for half an hour before adding the dressing. Skipping this step will result in a soggy salad with a diluted dressing.
Make ahead and Storing
You can make this salad a day ahead. It’s better if you store the salad dressing and garnishes separately and just assemble them when you are ready to serve. In case there is any leftover after the salad has been assembled, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 or 3 days.
Can I make it gluten-free?
You absolutely can! Just swap the soy sauce with tamari sauce instead. Some brands of rice vinegar contain gluten so make sure to check first before using it. Or you can swap it with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. The rest of the ingredients are gluten-free.
This Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad Recipe is:
- Quick and easy to make
- Naturally vegan
- Deliciously refreshing
- Low in calories
- The perfect summer salad!
What to eat with cucumber salad?
Here are some recipes that you can serve with the cucumber salad:
- Chinese Scallion Pancakes
- Vegetable Dumplings (Vegan Gyoza)
- Pan-fried Bao Buns
- Sichuan Spicy Wontons
- Korean Kimchi Pancakes
- Chinese Eggplants with Chili Garlic Sauce
- Vegan Pad Thai
If you try this smashed cucumber salad recipe, feel free to leave me a comment and a star rating! And if you’d like to share a photo of your version and share it on Instagram, please tag me @biancazapatka and use the hashtag #biancazapatka because I love seeing your remakes! Enjoy! 🙂
Smashed Cucumber SaladAuthor:
- 1 (350 g) cucumber 12.3 oz
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp coriander chopped
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
*Note: Check out the recipe video + step-by-step photos above!
- Use a rolling pin (or meat tenderizer if you have one) and smash the cucumber until it split open on the sides (as you can see in the video). Cut the smashed cucumber into bite-sized pieces, and place in a strainer with a bowl underneath. Add the salt and mix to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes to release the excess liquid.
- In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients for the dressing.
- Drain the cucumber, pour away the liquid, then transfer the drained cucumber back to the bowl. Add coriander, onions and the dressing and stir to combine.
- Garnish your cucumber salad with paprika powder, chili, green onions, sesame and/or other herbs/toppings as you like.
- Make ahead: This salad can be made up to one day ahead.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and add sesame or peanuts right before serving to make sure they stay crunchy!
- For more information, helpful tips and serving suggestions, please read the blog post above.
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