This Tangy Cucumber Salad Will Perk Up Your Dinner

© 2024 Michelle Min. Used by permission of Quarto Publishing Group USA

The spiral shape makes this a dish you won’t forget.

Inspired by a delightful dish I had at Dough Zone — a beloved soup dumpling restaurant chain founded in Bellevue, Washington — my perception of cucumbers underwent a revolution. While I have always enjoyed cucumbers and found creative uses for them, such as adding slices to ice water or using them as impromptu eye masks, I never realized their potential for culinary sophistication.

The cucumbers in this dish are crisp, packed with umami, and simultaneously light and satisfying. It’s no wonder that this salad has become a sensation on social media. Below is my take on the popular cucumber salad: slightly tangy and bursting with flavor. According to Jake (my forever chauffeur, but mainly husband), “These cucumbers are even more flavorful than the ones we get at Dough Zone!”

Umami-Packed Spiral Cucumber Salad


  • 2 long cucumbers like English, Japanese, or Persian (but not American), washed and patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons (39 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the dressing

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 ml) black vinegar or citrus juice like yuzu, calamansi, lime, or lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of MSG (optional)

For the garnishing

  • 1/3 cup (5 g) cilantro leaves (optional)
  • 2 to 3 bird’s eye chilis or any red chili, chopped (optional, though they provide a beautiful pop of red color)
  • White or black sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped and divided (reserve half for the optional garlic oil)

For the optional garlic oil

  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) neutral oil


Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 5 minutes | Serves 4

  1. Make the dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl, cover, and set aside.
  2. Prepare the cucumbers. Peel off a long vertical (lengthwise) strip of skin from 2 opposite sides of each cucumber. This makes it easier and more stable to cut them.
  3. Place a cucumber between two disposable or sturdy chopsticks. The chopsticks will prevent you from cutting the cucumbers all the way down. Carefully make consecutive diagonal cuts ( \ \ \ \ \ \ \ ) at about 2-mm intervals on 1 side of the cucumber. Flip the cucumber 180 degrees and make consecutive straight cuts ( | | | | | | | ) at the same intervals. Repeat with the second cucumber.
  4. Arrange the cucumbers in a spiral on a serving dish or bowl. Sprinkle sugar and salt over the cucumbers and cover. Allow them to marinate for about an hour in the refrigerator.
  5. Remove the cucumbers from the refrigerator and drain any excess juice. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers. Garnish with your toppings of choice, adding half of the garlic if you’re making the garlic oil; if not, add all the garlic. Refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes so the cucumbers soak up the flavors.
  6. To make the optional garlic oil, heat the oil to about 325°F (170°C) and add the reserved garlic. Remove from heat when the garlic is golden and crispy. Drizzle the oil over the cucumbers, making sure to also add the garlic bits.

Recipe adapted from Modern Asian Kitchen, by Kat Lieu, copyright 2024. Published by Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group.

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