The Recipe: Vinegared Cucumber

This side dish makes for an excellent accompaniment to Japanese food. Going in, I thought I would like this dish. It turns out that I love it. It is highly recommended.

If you don’t have time to make your own dashi, you can use an instant dashi — though I have never tested it.

For a detailed report on this recipe, read my full breakdown.

Vinegared Cucumber (Kyuuri no Somoni)
Serves 4

From: Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, 25th Anniversary Edition published by Kodansha International. © 1980 by Shizuo Tsuji. Foreword © 2006 by Ruth Reichl

Ingredients:
4 Japanese cucumbers (or 2 Western cucumbers, peeled and seeded)
Sanbaizu sauce:
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup dashi
4 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar

Directions:

  1. To prepare: cut cucumbers into paper-thin slices (or use food processor).
  2. Spread out on a large wooden cutting board and sprinkle with a moderate amount of salt. Knead about 1 minute. A fair amount of water will be given off. Transfer cucumber to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Do not wash.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan combine all the ingredients for the sauce and bring to a simmer. Force-cool by pouring hot sauce into a metal bowl and twirling that bowl in a larger one filled with water and ice cubes.
  4. To assemble and serve: Pour slightly more than half the sauce over the salted cucumber. Gently squeeze cucumber with your hands. Pour off excess sauce from the cucumber and discard. Finally, pour remaining sauce over the cucumber. If you add sauce to cucumber only once, the mixture will become watery.
  5. Transfer small mounds of cucumber drenched with sauce to small individual dishes. Serve at room temperature. This goes well with everything.

Variation: Cucumber and Seaweed in Sanbaizu Sauce: Proceed exactly as above, but add trimmed and softened lobe-leaf seaweed (wakame). Soak dried wakame in tepid water 30 minutes. Scald in hot water, then plunge into cold water to improve texture and color. Trim off hard parts with a knife and chop coarsely. Wrap in a kitchen towel to extract moisture. Toss with the salted cucumber before adding sanbaizu sauce.


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