If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant, chances are you’ve had the Japanese appetizer sunomono. If you haven’t, then I’ll tell you that it’s a simple cucumber salad lightly dressed with oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and a little sugar and allowed to sit in its own juices for a while for enhanced flavor. I love ordering it with chopped octopus — as long as I know that the restaurant cooks the octopus well and doesn’t give rubbery grossness. Rubbery octopus is a bummer, but perfect octopus is divine!
I’ve made this dish a couple of times out of a need to use up the giant cucumbers sprouting endlessly in our front yard. They aren’t Japanese cucumbers (which are smaller, so if you use those you might want to use 2 or 3), but they’ve done just fine every time I’ve made this dish. And when I say giant, I mean giant — I used one and made a massive bowl that Loren and I split and still had leftovers (split as an appetizer … I’m known to cook a lot of food). Also, the variety I have growing out front is “burpless” for those of us out there who find that cucumber “repeats” on us. This variety doesn’t do that, so if you’re into gardening, consider growing them.
Anyway, this recipe is simply the easiest thing to whip up you could imagine. I literally measured nothing to make it, so the following instructions might not be for everyone. If you want exact measurements, you might want to find another version of it somewhere on the interwebs. I can promise you that this is very hard to screw up though, so go with me down the path of intuitive cooking this one time and see how it turns out. This could be the first step you take toward trusting your own instincts in the kitchen! You won’t be sorry that you didn’t dirty your measuring spoons.
Also, as you’re slicing in the kitchen, I suggest saying “sunomono” to the tune of the Muppets singing in this video. I can’t help it and do it every single time I make or order it. It might be compulsive but I’m not sure. Either way, it’s fun! Or you might hate me for putting this song in your head.
Easy Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)
Ingredients (serves 3 or 4):
- 1 giant burpless cucumber or 3 Japanese cucumbers
- Unrefined expeller-pressed sesame oil — check out my Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oil to find out why “unrefined” matters (about a 5 second pour)
- Maple syrup Maple Syrup (about a 3-second pour)
- Gluten-free Tamari (just a dash, maybe 5 shakes through the plastic filter on the spout of the bottle)
- Black sesame seeds (black ones are more nutritious than white ones, but white works too — use as many as you want)
- Rice vinegar (about 10 shakes through the plastic filter on the spout)
- OPTIONAL: fish sauce (2 or 3 shakes, only a 1-second pour if there’s no plastic filter)
- OPTIONAL: sesame chili oil (start slow with this so it doesn’t get too spicy and add what you want for your own taste)
- Slice the cucumbers as thin as possible into a large bowl. (I use a stand-up grater that has a mandolin-style blade on one side. It’s super simple and safe to use)
- Drizzle in all the liquid ingredients
- Toss using tongs and make sure everything mixes thoroughly
- Add in sesame seeds and do another light toss
- OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving
FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.