Smashed Cucumber and Watermelon Salad
Recipe courtesy of Andy Liang for Food Network Kitchen

Smashed Cucumber and Watermelon Salad

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 40 min (includes salting and cooling times)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
Smashed cucumber salad (or pai huang gua) is a staple side dish in many Chinese restaurants and usually consists of cucumbers tossed with black vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and sesame seeds (or oil). In other variations, chiles and sometimes Sichuan peppercorn are added. We started with the technique of smashing the cucumbers, which creates jagged edges and more surface area for the dressing to get absorbed, and salting them, which softens the skin, firms up the flesh and releases some water to concentrate the flavor, then added a twist. This version combines the freshness of sweet watermelon and an abundance of herbs with a little heat from chiles and ginger. It's a bright summer salad that hits all the flavor receptors.



  1. Partially peel the cucumbers in strips and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Firmly smash the cucumber pieces with the flat side of a cleaver or large knife (or a rolling pin) until the cucumbers split in half naturally. Pull apart the 2 sides of the cucumbers along the natural split. Cut the cucumbers into 1-inch pieces diagonally.
  2. Toss together the cucumbers and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Let sit at room temperature until the cucumbers have released some liquid, about 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, add the neutral oil and shallots to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are mostly browned, about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool, about 20 minutes (the shallots will continue to brown).
  4. When the shallot oil mixture is cool, stir in the following ingredients in this order: the lime zest, Chinese black vinegar, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the sesame seeds, the red chile and lime juice until the sugar is dissolved; set aside.
  5. Drain the cucumbers and dry them with a paper towel. Toss the cucumbers, watermelon, cilantro and mint in the lime-soy dressing and transfer to a plate. Garnish with the remaining toasted sesame seeds and additional cilantro and mint.

Cook’s Note

Red Thai chile packs a punch in a tiny form, so to lower the heat a bit, cut in half, remove the seeds and mince. You can also use any other type of spicy chile you prefer; just mince and toss with the salad dressing. There are many ways of smashing cucumbers: you can smash them with the flat side of a large knife (just like you are crushing a garlic clove), rolling pin or even a meat mallet.