One of my favorite dishes that I’ve had at a restaurant is PF Chang’s Shanghai Cucumbers. The first time I had them, I went home and recreated them. It is a quick and easy recipe that is delicious with a number of dishes. All you need is a cucumber, toasted sesame oil, tamari or shoyu, and gomasio (toasted sesame seeds). I found out recently that PF Chang’s also adds a small amount of white vinegar to the sauce, but I don’t tend to do that when I make it, although it does add a slight amount of tang (that isn’t unwelcome) to the dish.
I believe that cucumber choice is the key to success with this recipe. I am a huge fan of the local Dominion Organics Middle Eastern (or Persian) cucumbers and feel that this variety tastes the best, especially for this recipe. English cucumbers are my second choice, when the Middle Eastern ones are not in season, and the nice thing is that those are generally local year round (they are grown in BC in a hot-house). If neither of these varieties of cucumbers are available to you, then you can of course use your standard cucumber!
Another key ingredient that I use is the Ohsawa brand organic gluten-free tamari. We don’t carry it at the Co-op, but owners can special order it in quantities of 3 (it works out to be about $9.60 a bottle – I saw it for as much as $21 a bottle on Amazon!). It is much pricier than other tamaris on the market, but it is vastly superior so it is worth the extra cost. We carry Ohsawa Nama Shoyu at the Co-op (if you can tolerate wheat) which is also pricier than other shoyus, but again, it is vastly superior. It is the only unpasteurized (and therefore raw) shoyu on the market – and neither the shoyu or the tamari is made with grain alcohol.
Once you have done that, hold your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber and slice into bite-sized chunks. Rotate cucumber a 1/4 turn and slice again – repeat until you can’t cut any more off!
Next, mix your sauce ingredients in a small measuring cup or in a small bowl. Pour over your cut cucumber, sprinkle with gomasio, and you’re done!
This dish takes about 5-7 minutes to make (depending on how quick you are with your knife!) – if you make it ahead, I like to reserve the sauce and add it right before serving. If you have leftovers, they will still be delicious (and slightly more intense!) the next day, although they won’t look as pretty. I make these at home to go with steak, Asian cuisine, and just for a snack.
- 1 Middle Eastern or English Cucumber
- ~ 2 T GF tamari or shoyu
- 1/4 t toasted sesame oil
- Gomasio (to taste)
- Optional—1 t white vinegar
- Wash your cucumber of choice. With your vegetable peeler, peel strips off the cucumber, being sure to leave some of the skin.
- Holding your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber, slice cucumber into mouth sized pieces, rotating a 1/4 turn after each cut. Place cut cucumber into a bowl.
- In a small measuring cup or bowl combine tamari/shoyu and toasted sesame oil. Add vinegar if using.
- Toss cucumber with the sauce. Sprinkle gomasio to taste.
To make your own gomasio:
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add raw sesame seeds to pan, and shake continuously until the seeds become slightly browned and become very aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from pan; Optional—sprinkle sea salt (to taste) over seeds and mix well.
- Keep in airtight container in the fridge.
You can use any kind of cucumber in this dish, but Middle Eastern/Persian and English cucumbers work the best. If you use a regular cucumber, then you will need to peel the whole thing and deseed it first.