Snake It Up: Creating Whimsical Chinese Cucumber Salad (Vegan, Gluten Free)  

 Last Update December 11, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

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Summer wouldn't be complete without the classic cucumber salad—a refreshing, light delight that's a true staple. Whether you're planning a picnic, potluck, or firing up the grill, it's the perfect companion. And in my household, we've taken our cucumber salad to the next level with a playful twist—a delightful Chinese cucumber salad in a playful snake shape! Not only is it incredibly easy to whip up, requiring just five ingredients, but it also guarantees to captivate your kids and loved ones. Be prepared for the ultimate entertainment as this salad becomes the talk of the party, leaving your family and friends amazed and delighted.

Below, I will show you how to make this fun and creative Chinese cucumber salad slither into a world of culinary enchantment! Like a mythical serpent in disguise, this extraordinary vegetable tantalizes both the eyes and taste buds with its slender, sinuous form and refreshing crunch. And if the idea of a snake-shaped salad is a bit too spooky for your taste, feel free to unleash your creativity and opt for a delightful spiral cucumber salad instead! Unleash your culinary creativity and savor the delightful surprise this dish adds to your dining experience.

Easy Chinese Cucumber Salad Recipe

Prep Time
10 minutes

Cook Time
0 minutes

Rest Time
30 minutes

Total Time
40 minutes

  • Cooking Method:
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Servings: 2
  • Calories: 115
  • Courses: Appetizer
  • Best Season: Summer

Ingredients

  • 2 Chinese cucumbers (or European cucumbers)
  • 1 Red chili pepper
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Goji Berry (For the eyes)

Directions

1. Spiral cut the cucumber with a knife or use a spiralizer. See below to learn how to make spiralized cuts. For spiralizer: Using a spiralizer, carefully spiralize the cucumbers into long, curly strands.

2. Place the spiralized cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle some salt over them. Allow them to rest for approximately 10 minutes to remove any excess moisture. Subsequently, rinse the cucumbers with cold water and gently dry them using a fresh kitchen towel.

3. Whisk together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, minced garlic, red chili pepper, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. This dressing will complement your salad perfectly.

4. Place the spiral-cut cucumbers into a bowl or deep dishware, then drizzle the vinegar over them. Toss delicately to ensure an even coating of the cucumbers.

5. Allow the salad to marinate in the refrigerator for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the flavors to harmonize and blend.

6. Just before serving, place the goji berry as the eyes.

snake cucumber

Tips & Notes

Choose fresh and firm Chinese cucumbers: Look for cucumbers that are crisp, firm, and free from any blemishes. This will ensure a satisfying crunch in your salad.

Control the cucumber texture: If you prefer a crunchier salad, reduce the marinating time to around 10-15 minutes. For a softer texture, allow the cucumbers to marinate for a longer period, up to 30 minutes. Please be aware that the cucumbers will release an increased amount of moisture the longer they are left to marinate.

Be mindful of salt: Chinese cucumbers have a natural saltiness, so be cautious when adding additional salt to the dressing. Taste the cucumbers before salting them, and adjust accordingly.

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 2


Calories

115


% Daily Value*


Total Fat 3.5g

4%


Saturated Fat 0.6g

3%


Cholesterol 0mg

0%


Sodium 124mg

5%


Total Carbohydrate 18.6g

7%


Dietary Fiber 2.3g

8%


Total Sugars 9.1g



Protein 3.3g



Vitamin D 0mcg

0%


Calcium 80mg

6%


Iron 1mg

8%


Potassium 571mg

12%


*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.


How To Cut Spiral Cucumber

In the absence of a spiralizer, you can still achieve spiral-cut cucumbers by utilizing chopsticks. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Start by washing the cucumber thoroughly and removing any dirt or wax from the skin. If desired, you can also peel the cucumber for a smoother texture.

  2. Place the cucumber in between two chopsticks.

  3. Take a knife and cut the cucumber to the chopsticks' surface.

  4. Once you are done, turn the cucumber over and slant-cut the cucumber to the chopsticks.

  5. Once you've spiral-cut the entire cucumber, remove the chopsticks and place your spiral cucumber into a bowl or deep dinnerware.

What is Chinese cucumber salad?

Chinese cucumber salad is a popular and refreshing dish in Chinese cuisine. It typically features thinly sliced, smashed pieces or spiralized cucumbers that are marinated in a flavorful dressing. The salad is known for its light and crisp texture, balanced flavors, and vibrant presentation.

In Chinese restaurants, you will be most likely to find Chinese smashed cucumber salad. Also known as "pai huang gua" in Mandarin, it is particularly in Sichuan and northern Chinese regions.

Chinese cucumber salad is loved for its simplicity, versatility, and the refreshing contrast it provides to other rich and flavorful dishes in Chinese cuisine. With its harmonious blend of flavors and textures, this dish becomes a favored option during the sweltering summer months or whenever a refreshing and light meal is craved.

What Ingredients You Will Need To Make Chinese Cucumber Salad

Chinese cucumbers

These cucumbers are thinner and longer compared to the regular cucumbers. Boasting a crunchy texture, gentle flavor, and subtly sweet taste, Chinese cucumbers serve as an excellent choice for cucumber salads, imparting a refreshing crispness to the dish.

If Chinese cucumber is not available, you can use European cucumber instead. European cucumbers are typically longer and slimmer than regular cucumbers, similar to Chinese cucumbers. They usually have smooth, thin, and dark green skin. This makes European cucumber another great option for making Asian cucumber salad. 

While you can use mini Japanese cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, these mini cucumbers won't deliver in length and thickness more than the Chinese cucumbers and European cucumbers.

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar is a key ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Crafted through the process of rice fermentation, this delicacy possesses a gentle and subtly sweet flavor. Rice vinegar adds a tangy and bright element to the cucumber salad, enhancing its overall taste.

Light soy sauce

Soy sauce is a staple in Chinese cooking. Derived from fermented soybeans, this ingredient imparts a savory umami essence to dishes, enhancing their flavor profile. The soy sauce adds depth and richness to the cucumber salad, balancing the tanginess of the vinegar.

Sesame oil

Extracted from toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil finds widespread usage in Asian cuisine. It has a distinct nutty aroma and flavor, adding a delightful touch to the salad. Sesame oil also contributes to the overall dressing and helps bind the flavors together.

Sugar

A small amount of sugar is often added to Chinese cucumber salad to balance the vinegar's tanginess and enhance the cucumbers' natural sweetness. It introduces a subtle sweetness that complements rather than overwhelms the other flavors.

To opt for a healthier alternative, consider using coconut sugar or maple sugar.

Garlic

Garlic, a versatile ingredient, finds its application in various culinary traditions, including Chinese cuisine. It adds a pungent and aromatic taste to the salad. Garlic is typically minced or finely chopped before being added to the dressing, providing a subtle hint of savory flavor.

How to elevate Chinese Style cucumber salad

Experiment with additional vegetables

While cucumbers are the star of the salad, you can enhance its flavors and textures by adding other vegetables. Consider including thinly sliced bell peppers, radishes, carrots, or even julienned daikon radish. These additions will introduce the salad with more colors, flavors, and crunch.

Introduce fresh herbs

Incorporate aromatic fresh herbs to bring a burst of freshness and fragrance to the salad. Chopped cilantro, mint leaves, or Thai basil make exceptional selections that harmonize beautifully with the dressing's flavors and the cucumbers. Sprinkle them on top as a garnish just before serving.

Add a protein source

Include a protein element to transform the cucumber salad into a more substantial and satisfying meal. Grilled or poached chicken, cooked shrimp, or tofu can be added to the salad. They will provide additional texture, substance, and protein, making it a complete and well-rounded dish.

Play with textures

Explore different textures by incorporating ingredients with varying crunchiness. For example, you may choose to sprinkle crushed peanuts or toasted sesame seeds over the salad as a delightful garnish. The added crunch will provide a delightful contrast to the crispness of the cucumbers.

Experiment with dressings

While the traditional dressing for Chinese cucumber salad is delicious, you can get creative and experiment with alternative dressings. Consider using a ginger-soy dressing, a peanut-lime dressing, or a sesame-garlic vinaigrette. These variations will introduce new flavors and elevate the overall taste of the salad.

Incorporate citrus

To brighten the flavors and add a tangy twist, squeeze some fresh citrus juice, such as lemon or lime, into the dressing. The citrus acidity will balance the other flavors and provide a refreshing zing to the salad.

Add A Kick

Adding chili oil to an Asian cucumber salad recipe can bring a delightfully spicy kick and an extra layer of flavor to the dish. Chili oil is a condiment made by infusing oil with chili peppers, resulting in a rich and aromatic oil with varying levels of spiciness.

spiral cucumber
snake cucumber

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I make the salad spicier?

Yes, if you prefer a spicy cucumber salad, you can adjust the heat level by adding more chili oil, chili flakes, or even fresh sliced chili peppers to the dressing. Be sure to make gradual adjustments to the spiciness, tasting along the way to achieve the perfect balance that suits your taste buds.

How long can I store leftovers of the Chinese cucumber salad?

While Chinese cucumber salad is most enjoyable when consumed fresh, any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a maximum of two days. However, note that the cucumbers may soften slightly over time.

How long should I marinate the cucumbers in the dressing?

Typically, the cucumbers are marinated for about 15 to 30 minutes. However, the marinating time can be adjusted based on your preference. If you prefer a crunchier texture, marinate for a shorter time, and for a softer texture, marinate for a longer duration.


Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.