You don't need many ingredients for a salad. Even just a humble cucumber can shine with a good dressing, fresh herbs and crunchy nuts. You can find this smashed cucumber salad at Parkdale's Pretty Ugly, which has teamed up with Vit Béo to pair regional Vietnamese plates with its cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.
The key to this dish is the smashing to draw out the water. Vit Beo notes that this may seem like a lot of cilantro, but it brightens up the overall flavour.
Heat a small pan over low heat with the vegetable oil. Add chili flakes to the oil and cook for 10 mins.
Add minced garlic and cook for 5 mins.
Add the tamari, water, salt, sugar and dried mushroom. Continue to cook over low heat, covered, until the mushrooms soften. When the mushrooms are soft, it’s done.
Remove mushrooms and reserve for another use. Strain out the particulate and let the liquid cool.
Once cooled, add the rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Store in a mason jar in the fridge.
Shake well before use.
While the mushrooms are cooking, start on the cucumbers.
Cut the ends off the cucumbers. Cut the cucumbers in half, widthwise, so the halves are a manageable length. Cut each half again, lengthwise, into long quarters.
Resting each quarter on a flat cut edge, remove the seeds of the cucumber by cutting at a 45 degree angle along the length of each quarter.
Place the cucumber skin side up and with a heavy bottom pan, smash each quarter just hard enough to soften the flesh but not so much that the skin breaks. The cucumber flesh should be slightly translucent be able to bend without snapping.
Once all pieces are smashed, cut each piece on a bias and place in a large bowl and toss with salt and sugar.
Let sit, covered in the fridge in a colander in a larger bowl for 30 mins.
Drain out and discard as much liquid as possible.
Tear the cilantro by hand, stems and all.
To assemble, combine the cucumber, cilantro and dressing in a mixing bowl and toss together. This part should be done no more than 10 mins before serving.
Top with crushed nuts and furikake just before serving. At the restaurant, we layer the salad and the garnishes for maximum flavour and consistency throughout the dish.
- 4 to 6 servings