Chinese Garlic Cucumber Salad (Liangban Huanggua)

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Liangban Huanggua

Chinese Garlic & Vinegar Cucumber Salad

I think I’m safe (and a more than a little obvious) when I say that the food of Asia is wildly diverse. But there is at least one feature that unites many of the exceptional cuisines of the continent, and that is an abiding love for simple vegetable preparations, both pickled and fresh, served as sides or accompaniments. In general, these vegetables add colour, brightness, and flavour designed to brighten or enliven the palate. These quick-marinated cucumbers, pungent and hot with a pleasingly sour bite, are a perfect accompaniment to any number of meals.

But let me step back for a moment – you shouldn’t consider this a mere side dish or condiment. In my opinion, this is the absolute best way to eat cucumbers. If every vegetable dish was as simple and tasty as this, there’d be a lot more vegetables on our plates. They are stunningly simple to prepare, and yet they bring such a distinctive and memorable taste to the table that people can’t help but take notice. The Mandarin Chinese name (Liángbàn Huángguā; 涼拌黃瓜) basically just translates to cucumber salad, but that doesn’t really do these cukes justice. Indeed, you’ll see lots of English name variations out there, emphasizing the garlic, vinegar, hot pepper, or the delightfully smashed texture. Superb, regardless of nomenclature.

If you’re new to exploring or experimenting with Chinese cuisine, you’d do well to start here. You don’t need a lot of specialized ingredients, and you don’t even need to cook. Liángbàn Huángguā is also a pretty common dish all around China and Taiwan, and is often regionally tweaked. If you’re so inclined, consider adding things like finely sliced carrots, firm tofu (doukan), Sichuan peppercorns, or ginger (for more on this, see the Recipe Notes below). Personally, I like this side as it is… simple, but memorable.

Recipe Notes

CUCUMBERS

Small, firm Japanese or Lebanese cucumbers are ideal for this recipe because they’re less watery and they stand up well to mixing/smashing. If you can’t find any, you can still make this with common field or English cucumbers – simply use a spoon to remove the seeds from the center first, then chop the firm fleshy portion into nice bite-sized pieces. Whether you leave the skin on these larger cucumbers or not will depend on how tough it is (field cucumbers are often quite thick-skinned).

CUSTOMIZING

It’s pretty easy to tweak this to your individual tastes. If you’d like it a little more sour, add more vinegar. Sweeter? Add a bit of sugar. If you want some more heat, leave the seeds and membranes in the chilies and/or add more chilies (one seeded chili makes for a rather mild version). It can be further modified by adding thinly sliced carrots, some minced or slivered ginger, crushed Sichuan peppercorns (a variation that is, suitably, popular in Sichuan), thinly sliced firm tofu (doukan) and more.  Ultimately though, I recommend starting with a very basic recipe and working from there.

SMASHING!

If you happen to be preparing this on the fly and you don’t have a container with a tight-fitting lid, simply smash the cucumbers under the broad side of a cleaver before tossing them into a bowl. Pour the sauce over everything and let it stand for 15 minutes or so before serving.

STORAGE

The cucumbers will be at their best if eaten within 2 hours of being made (keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them).  They can easily be kept refrigerated longer, but the cucumbers will give up more and more water over time, causing the vinegar mixture to become more and more dilute.  If you have leftovers that have been in the fridge overnight, consider adding a little more sugar and vinegar to taste.


Nutrition Facts
Chinese Garlic Cucumber Salad (Liangban Huanggua)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 42 Calories from Fat 2
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.2g 0%
Saturated Fat 0.01g 0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.01g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.002g
Sodium 730mg 30%
Potassium 132mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 10g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 9g
Protein 1g 2%
Vitamin A 1%
Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 1%
Iron 1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

GOOD NEWS:
With zero fat and very few carbohydrates, this is almost guilt-free. It’s a great way to round out a meal and fill yourself up without overdoing it.

BAD NEWS:
Cucumbers aren’t the most nutrient-dense vegetable, so they don’t pack a lot of nutritional punch. On top of that, this style of Chinese side dish necessitates a fair bit of salt, so take note if you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake.

Ingredient Pages

No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

  • Vegan
  • Inexpensive
  • Gluten free

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Liangban Huanggua (涼拌黃瓜) - Chinese cucumbers with garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and hot peppers - Diversivore.com
Chinese Garlic Cucumber Salad (Liangban Huanggua)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
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  • 5
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Passive Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Passive Time
15 minutes
Liangban Huanggua (涼拌黃瓜) - Chinese cucumbers with garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and hot peppers - Diversivore.com
Chinese Garlic Cucumber Salad (Liangban Huanggua)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Passive Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Passive Time
15 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Clean the cucumbers, but do not peel them. Cut them in half the long way, and then into 2 cm (~1 inch) pieces. Place them into a container with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Peel and smash (do not mince) the garlic cloves and add them to the cucumbers.
  3. Coarsely chop the chili and add it to the cucumbers. If you like a milder heat, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili.
  4. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over the cucumbers.
  5. Vigorously shake the container (with the lid on) for about 30 seconds to 'smash' the cucumbers. Refrigerate and let stand for at least 15 minutes.
Recipe Notes

CUCUMBERS

Small, firm Japanese or Lebanese cucumbers are ideal for this recipe because they're less watery and they stand up well to mixing/smashing. If you can't find any, you can still make this with common field or English cucumbers - simply use a spoon to remove the seeds from the center first, then chop the firm fleshy portion into nice bite-sized pieces. Whether you leave the skin on these larger cucumbers or not will depend on how tough it is (field cucumbers are often quite thick-skinned).

CUSTOMIZING

It's pretty easy to tweak this to your individual tastes. If you'd like it a little more sour, add more vinegar. Sweeter? Add a bit of sugar. If you want some more heat, leave the seeds and membranes in the chilies and/or add more chilies (one seeded chili makes for a rather mild version). It can be further modified by adding thinly sliced carrots, crushed Sichuan peppercorns (a variation that is, suitably, popular in Sichuan), thinly sliced firm tofu (doukan) and more.

SMASHING!

If you happen to be preparing this on the fly and you don't have a container with a tight-fitting lid, simply smash the cucumbers under the broad side of a cleaver before tossing them into a bowl.  Pour the sauce over everything and let it stand for 15 minutes or so before serving.

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Comments

  1. So simply yet depending on peppers could really pack a punch! I grow Trinidad Scorpion peppers, they would definitely take the heat in this to the next level!

    1. Author

      I hear you there. Those Moruga scorpion peppers scare me a little. I can’t imagine that level of fire! But that’s the nice thing about spice – it’s so easy to play with!

  2. Sean, this looks wonderful! I am always looking for ways to make cucumber because I usually find them tasteless! I love the presentation and the recipe and I am so inspired to make a great recipe from my boring cucumber!

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