Sunomono Japanese Cucumber Salad
I’ve eaten sunomono every night for the last week. It’s hot out there. So hot maybe I don’t feel like eating? Who am I kidding, I always feel like eating.
Especially cucumbers in the summertime. Heck, I love cucumbers anytime. I would even go so far as to say that cucumbers are my favorite vegetable. They’re crunchy, incredibly refreshing, and have a mild green flavor that goes with just about anything.
I’ve been eating so much kyuri no sunomono aka Japanese cucumber salad that I think I’m going to turn into a cucumber soon. It’s so cooling, crisp, and refreshing. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any meal and I sometimes just eat it as a meal, it’s that good.
What is sunomono?
Sunomono are vinegar based dishes, kind of like pickles. The “su” in sunomono means vinegar in Japanese, the “no” means belonging to, and “mono” means things. So sunomono is vinegar things! They’re commonly served with Japanese meals, at the start or alongside the meal.
The vinegar highlights and accentuates the other flavors in the meal and also whets your appetite. Sunomono are typically tangy, crunchy, and so, so good. It’s light and healthy and just about the perfect thing to eat anytime.
How to make sunomono
Sunomono is essentially a light pickle. You make a vinegar based dressing and then toss your vegetables in the dressing then enjoy. It’s super simple and flavorful for a small amount of work.
- Make the dressing. In a bow, mix together rice vinegar, mirin, and soy sauce.
- Slice and salt the cucumbers. Thinly slice the cucumbers and salt them to draw some of the moisture out. Rinse, drain well, and lightly squeeze any excess moisture out of the cucumbers.
- Soak the seaweed. Place dried wakame in water to rehydrate then drain well.
- Toss the salad. Toss the cucumbers and wakame with the dressing and finish with toasted sesame seeds.
- Cucumbers: go for either mini cucumbers or Persian, they have thin skins and are the perfect combination of crisp and fresh.
- Wakame: wakame is a dried edible seaweed. When rehydrated, it’s briny, slightly salty and tender with a bit of crunch. It’s often used in miso soup or salad.
- Rice vinegar: rice vinegar is delicate, sweet and tangy. It comes in seasoned and unseasoned. The seasoned rice vinegar has a bit of salt and sugar in it. You can use either in this recipe, but if you go with unseasoned, add a tiny bit of salt and sugar to taste. You can find rice vinegar in the Asian aisle or online.
- Mirin: mirin adds a bit of sweetness and depth to the dressing. It’s a Japanese sweet rice wine and a key ingredient in Japanese cooking. They sell mirin in the Asian aisle, at Asian grocery stores, and online.
- Soy sauce: It’s best to use Japanese soy sauce for this dish as it’s a lighter flavor with the right salt profile. We like Yamasa.
- Toasted sesame seeds: Toasted sesame seeds add a bit of crunch and nutty fragrance. It’s the finishing touch!
Which cucumber for Japanese cucumber salad?
The best cucumbers for sunomono are those cute mini cucumbers or Persian cucumbers. Japanese cucumbers tend to be smaller than English, with thinner skins. Garden cucumbers with thick skins and lots of seeds are not what you want. Persian cucumbers are the closest cucumber you can get in North America.
To prep cucumbers for cucumber salad:
- Thinly slice. Slice the cucumbers thinly or use a mandoline to make even slices.
- Salt. Sprinkle the sliced cucumbers with salt to draw out excess moisture. Taking out the moisture allows the dressing to absorb into the cucumber making it more flavorful. Let the cucumbers sit for 5 minutes.
- Rinse. After the cucumbers have expelled a bunch of water, give them a rinse.
- Drain. Drain the cucumbers well.
- Squeeze. Lightly squeeze out any excess moisture and your cucumbers are ready to dress. They’ll be crunchy and ready to absorb all the delicious dressing.
Wakame is a dried seaweed that’s beloved for it’s taste and texture. It comes sold dried in bags and it’s easy to rehydrate. Just put a small amount into warm water until it feels soft, about 5 minutes. Squeeze out any excess water and it’s ready to use in this salad. It’s also an amazing addition to miso soup.
Where to buy wakame
You can find wakame where they keep the seaweed in your local Asian grocery store. They also sell it online.
What to serve with sunomono
You can eat this salad on it’s own or serve it along side grilled fish or meats and rice. We like it with salmon or chicken karaage with fluffy Japanese rice.
Tips and tricks
- Buy the right cucumbers. You want thin skinned, seedless cucumbers like Persians, which are small, seedless, sweet, and crunchy. They’re extra crisp instead of watery.
- Use a mandoline. If you have awesome knife skills, use them! But if you’re in a hurry and want perfectly sized slices a mandoline is your friend.
- Don’t skip out on the salting step. Salting the cucumbers adds flavor and draws out any extra moisture in the cucumbers. The dressing soaks into the cucumbers better after they’ve been salted.
- Add extra ingredients to customize. Feel free to add in extra items like baby shrimp, tako (octopus) or mung bean noodles.
This is the perfect summer salad or side dish. Sweet, tangy, salty, crisp, refreshing, and light. It’s the best cucumber salad ever!
Cooling, crisp, and refreshing, it’s the perfect accompaniment to any meal.
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 0.01g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.