Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜, pai huang gua) is a light and refreshing appetizer. The crisp cucumber is mixed with plenty of garlic, drizzled with an appetizing blend of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar, then finished with a few drops of sesame oil. The sauce is light, yet it has a distinct sour flavor with a hint of sweetness, enhanced by the strong aroma of garlic.

Traditional Chinese cucumber salad

The cucumber salad is a dish I’ve been eating since childhood. It’s one of those easy dinner rotation dishes that my mom makes all the time, especially when it’s hot and humid outside and she doesn’t want to turn on the stove to cook stir fry.

This cucumber salad only takes 5 minutes to prepare. It’s refreshing and tasty. The salad goes very well with pretty much any Chinese dish. Stir-fry, braised meats, noodles, and deep-fried goodies. You name it! It even goes very well with some Western-style food, such as bread and cheese. I consider it one of the easiest side dishes to make on a busy weekday, to add color and nutrition to your dinner table.

The secret to making the best cucumber salad

1. Use English cucumbers

English cucumbers have a thinner skin and crispier texture. They work so much better in this salad than the dark-skinned American cucumbers. The smaller cucumbers (usually for making Japanese dishes and/or pickling) also work well.

I didn’t peel the cucumber skin, in order to give the dish a nice color. Plus, the skin adds more fiber to the meal. If the cucumber is fresh, the skin shouldn’t be too chewy or dry. You could choose to only remove the tough skin at the lower end of the cucumber. However, if you don’t like the skin, feel free to peel and discard it.

If you use the American cucumber that has waxy and thick skin, do peel the skin before making the salad.

2. Smash the cucumber before cutting

The secret to making delicious cucumber salad is to give the cucumber a coarse texture so it holds more sauce. Instead of chopping the cucumber, smash it with a cleaver first. Then tilt the cleaver to cut the cucumber into diamond-shaped pieces. This method will increase the surface area of the cucumber and create nooks and crannies, allowing it to absorb more sauce. If you do not own a cleaver, a meat pounder works just as well.

Chinese cucumber salad cooking step-by-step

3. Use Chinkiang vinegar

Chinkiang vinegar (Zhenjiang vinegar, 镇江香醋) is a type of Chinese black vinegar. It is made from various grains and is aged until the color turns dark brown or inky black. It has a rich, pungent, and tart flavor, sometimes with a hint of sweetness. It has a fermented malty taste and woody character that distinguishes it from the light-colored and fruity rice vinegar.

It’s a key ingredient in this recipe that gives the sauce an extra tangy and rich taste.

4. A bit of chili oil goes a long way

I love to drizzle a bit of homemade chili oil onto my cucumber salad. It adds a nice smoky aroma to the dish and really enhances its taste.

If you happen to have a jar of Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp, that’s even better! It is a famous (and extremely popular) Chinese brand that sells their chili oil that’s filled with crispy onion, chili peppers, and garlic. It’s not the healthiest ingredient, but it will make your salad addictively tasty. If you’re hosting a dinner party, serve the cucumber salad with some Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp. Your side dish might be gone faster than your main dish!

Chinese cucumber salad with chili oil

Cooking video

I also made a short video below, to show you how easy it is to cook this dish! If you like Chinese cuisine, be sure to check out my cooking channel on YouTube. It contains a good collection of cooking videos to help you become familiar with Chinese cooking skills in a short span of time.

More easy delicious Chinese veggie recipes

Chinese cucumber salad

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Traditional Chinese cucumber salad

Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

Smashed Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜, pai huang gua) is a light and refreshing appetizer. The crisp cucumber is mixed with plenty of garlic, drizzled with an appetizing blend of soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar, then finished with a few drops of sesame oil. The sauce is light, yet it has a distinct sour flavor with a hint of sweetness, enhanced by the strong aroma of garlic.
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4
Calories: 38kcal
Author: Omnivore's Cookbook

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Dry the cucumber with a paper towel. Place the cucumber on a large cutting board and carefully use a cleaver to crush it. If you don't own a cleaver, a meat pounder will work as well. Then cut it into bite-size pieces and place them into a bowl.
  • Add the garlic on top of the cucumber.
  • Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt and sesame oil in a small bowl and mix well.
  • Right before serving, pour the sauce mixture over the cucumber and mix well. (Do not add the sauce beforehand. It will cause the cucumber to lose water, and the sauce will be diluted.
  • (Optional) To give the salad an extra kick, you can drizzle some chili oil or add a spoonful of chili crisp. It makes the dish addictively good.

Nutrition

Serving: 163g | Calories: 38kcal | Carbohydrates: 7.6g | Protein: 1.3g | Fat: 0.9g | Sodium: 520mg | Potassium: 242mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1.1g | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 1mg | Iron: 17mg
Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜, pai huang gua) is a light and refreshing appetizer. The crisp cucumber is mixed with plenty of garlic, drizzled with an appetizing blend of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar, then finished with a few drops of sesame oil.

The recipe was published by Mar 15, 2014 and updated on Sep 1, 2019.

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Share:
Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

Never Miss a Recipe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

33 thoughts on “Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad (拍黄瓜)

  1. Thomas

    This is my favorite Chinese cold dish! I’m looking forward to seeing more like it, such as tofu and celery, wood ear, peanuts, etc.

    Reply
  2. Dani

    I love cucumber side dishes! I’ve never thought to use garlic and sesame oil with cucumbers before, but it looks so delicious, I’m definitely going to have to give it a try!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Dani, thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂
      Garlic adds great flavor in a lot of salad dish and I love using a lot!

      Reply
  3. Danielle

    I just got back from China and this was one of my favorite dishes! It’s amazing to me that something as simple as cucumbers could be so good…definitely going to have to try making this!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Danielle, thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment! I’m glad to hear that you like some of the Chinese food and would like to cook them at home.
      Yes, a lot of Chinese dishes are very simple but taste good. Hope you enjoy the dish and let me know how it goes with the cooking! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Vicky

    So glad I stumbled upon your website! This reminds me of the cucumber salad my dad used to make all the time – definitely planning on making it myself as well 🙂

    Reply
  5. Vitaly

    It’s the simplest dish I’ve ever made, but full of flavor and texture!
    Just had this delicious salad with pork neck chops, SOOOO GOOD!!!!

    Reply
  6. Danielle (sg)

    Can this recipe be made to taste nice without sugar? We at trying to cut down on sugar to lose weight, and we love eating cucumber salad, so consuming that much sugar (I’m sure we’ll eat up to 6 cucumbers each) would have the opposite effect.
    On the other hand, can black vinegar be used? The type we dip Xiao long baos into.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Danielle, yes I’m pretty sure you can make this dish without sugar. The sugar will balance with the sourness and add a nice touch to the dish, but it wouldn’t cause a big problem to skip it. The other way to enjoy the cucumber salad is using chili oil instead of the sesame oil.
      Yes, black vinegar works perfectly for this dish.
      Happy cooking and let me know how the healthier version turns out 🙂

      Reply
  7. Zee

    I agree that it goes well with some western food! I made a lot of this recipe this week, too much really, and the next morning put it on a toasted bagel with vegan cream cheese. (Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese is very close to regular, so would be good with regular cream cheese too.) Cream cheese and cucumber is a classic tea sandwich, so I thought it would work well together, and I was right. 😉

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Zee, I really love the idea of topping this salad on a bagel! Sounds super yummy! Hmmm, now I start to wonder if there are any other Chinese food I can top on a bagel 🙂
      Would love to try this out for my breakfast tomorrow. Sounds super yummy!

      Reply
  8. Robin

    We currently live in Nanjing and my family has fallen in love with this cucumber dish in the Chinese restaurants here. Even my husband who does not like cukes, loves this dish. Are there specific ingredients I should look for in my local Suguo grocery store to make this dish most authentic?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Robin, the most important ingredient is the Chinkiang vinegar. There are so many vinegars out there, espeically in China, that the cucumber salad will taste so different. I would get the type called “xiang cu”, literally means sweet vinegar. It is a type of Chinkiang vinegar that is slightly sweet and not too tart. Get that type if you can. Also, I think some of the restuarnts add a bit homemade chili oil too. The dish is rather forgiven, so I think you’ll make it work 🙂

      Reply
  9. Shantell

    Hi Maggie! Thank you for sharing your recipes. In South Africa, our favourite Chinese restaurant adds roughly chopped coriander (cilantro) which is really delicious.

    Reply
  10. Shan

    Maggie, I used your recipe tonight and the cucumber salad turned out great. My husband loved it!! I will be making it again very soon. Thank you so much.
    Shan

    Reply
    1. Thomas

      We’re very happy to hear that, Shan! As Maggie’s husband, I’ve eaten this dish at least a hundred times and it’s always delicious and refreshing 🙂 Take care and happy cooking.

      Reply
  11. Brad

    This is the way we make it in our house. FYI Chinkiang Vinegar is easily found in most Asian food stores. That vinegar is also great for steamed dumplings.

    Reply
  12. Manny

    well, this is deceiving…you advertise a Chinese cucumber salad but it is really an english cucumber salad.
    I am interested in a Chinese cucumber salad using Chinese cucumbers.

    Reply
  13. Chloe

    5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe, Maggie!

    I lived in Beijing for a while several years ago and have been craving this since I left! Tastes exactly how I remember it 🙂

    Reply