Japanese Cucumber Salad aka Sunomono is a perfect summer side dish. It’s healthy, super simple to make, hella refreshing, and works well with any main dish.
Sunomono at it’s core is not much different from your traditional American cucumber salad. It’s simply cucumber marinated in some form of vinegar based dressing. For this salad the cucumbers are thinly sliced and the marinade includes more commonly used Japanese ingredients like rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. However, though just as timeless, it tastes so much better and offers a true wow type experience for such a simple dish.
What’s the difference between Japanese cucumbers and regular American ones?
As you can see from the picture, Japanese cucumbers are longer, skinnier, and with an irregular shape. They sort of resemble a skinny, green humpback whale.They also have a much thinner skin, which in my humble opinion makes peeling them unnecessary. Texturally, there aren’t as many seeds. For those present, they’re typically smaller. After having my first taste, admittedly it will be hard to go back to plain American cucumbers. These are crisp, crunchy and delicious with a sweetness similar to melons.
What other cucumber varieties can work in this Japanese cucumber salad?
I was fortunate to cop these cucumbers at my farmers’ market. And on occasion, I run across them into specialty grocery stores. You may have more luck finding Persian or English cucumbers in more mainstream grocery stores. Of the two, I’m more partial to the Persian as they are not very thick and are closer in taste and crunchiness to Japanese ones.
Preparing the cucumbers
Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible using your knife of a mandolin slicer. Salt them next to remove moisture as well as to make the cucumbers more acceptable to the vinegar flavor. The less amount of water then the easier the cucumbers absorb the vinegar. Thick, American type cucumbers contain too much water and require extra steps to make them work in this recipe. Essentially you’d need to spoon out the seeds and soft flesh before slicing.
Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)
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Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)
- 1 Japanese cucumber
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp mirin
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- sesame seeds
- Wash and slice the cucumbers as thin as possible.
- Place the sliced cucumbers into a small bowl and sprinkle the salt. Toss the cucumbers and salt in order to coat the cucumbers evenly with salt.
- Leave the cucumber with salt for 10 minutes to draw the moisture out
- Using your hands, squeeze the water out of the cucumbers.
Combine mirin, vinegar, and soy sauce in a mixing bowl to make the sauce
- Place the cucumber in a mixing bowl and pour the vinegar sauce over the cucumber.
- Serve it in a small bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Other vinegars can be replaced - white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar but each different vinegar will taste differently. Japanese cucumbers are recommended to use for this dish. If using alternatives, target thinner varieties. For wider/thicker types remove seeds and soft flesh before slicing. Garnish with sesame seeds. I used black for presentation but feel free to use traditional off white colored ones. Fresh ginger make for a great finishing touch as well