Umami-Packed Spiral Cucumber Salad

Umami-Packed Spiral Cucumber Salad

These gorgeous green cukes are a show-stealing side dish.

Prep: 10 mins

Cook: 5 mins

Marinating Time: 90 mins

Total: 105 mins

Servings: 4

This recipe is adapted from Modern Asian Kitchen, by Kat Lieu (Harvard Common Press, 2024).

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. Here’s 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!”

Ed. Note: If you're pressed for time, you can skip the marinating time in the fridge and the cucumbers will still be delicious, but they're best if you give them time to soak up all the flavors of the dressing.


For the Dressing

  • 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 Cucumbers

  • 2 long cucumbers like English, Japanese, or Persian (but not American), washed and patted dry

  • 3 tablespoons (39 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

For Garnishing

  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves

  • 2 to 3 bird’s eye chilies 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 milliliters) neutral oil

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Make the dressing. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 milliliters) 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, a pinch of salt, and an optional dash of MSG in a bowl, cover, and set aside.

  3. Prepare the cucumbers. Peel off a long, vertical (lengthwise) strip of skin from two opposite sides of each of 2 long cucumbers like English, Japanese, or Persian (but not American), washed and patted dry. This makes it easier and more stable to cut them.

  4. 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-millimeter intervals on one side of the cucumber. Flip the cucumber 180 degrees and make consecutive straight cuts (| | | | | | |) at the same intervals. Repeat with the second cucumber.

  5. Arrange the cucumbers in a spiral on a serving dish or bowl. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons (39 grams) granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon salt over the cucumbers and cover. Allow them to marinate for about an hour in the refrigerator.

  6. 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 all the flavors.

  7. To make the optional garlic oil, heat 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) neutral oil in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the reserved 3 garlic cloves, chopped. Remove from the heat when the garlic is golden and crispy. Drizzle the oil over the cucumbers, making sure to also add the garlic bits.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 71
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 784mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 4mg 21%
Calcium 25mg 2%
Iron 0mg 3%
Potassium 231mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *