Over the weekend, Brian and I went to Indianapolis to celebrate a belated Passover with his mom’s side of the family, and it couldn’t have been more lovely. Leading up to it, I’ll admit I was a little nervous to meet everyone, but they were all so nice and welcoming that my feelings of intimidation were quickly replaced with adoration and respect. I’m absolutely smitten and am already counting down the days until we all meet again in Chicago for a bat mitzvah (my first one!) over Memorial Day weekend.
Of the 14 of us at Seder, only 4 were men, and I loved the whole powerhouse-women thing that we had going on all weekend. Less strong was me breaking out into messy sobs at the dining-room table as Brian’s mom and aunts told stories about his late grandfather Arnie. He passed long before I came into the picture, but the memories they shared were so touching that they painted a clear picture of the kind of family man that he was. The stories got me thinking about my own grandparents and how important it is to keep up with family traditions, and I just couldn’t help but lose it.
So before I start crying again, I thought I’d share a little tradition from mine. While most people probably woke up to bagels and pancakes on weekend mornings, at our house, it was always rice porridge, dumplings and Chinese cucumber salad. Growing up, there’s little that I wouldn’t have done to trade that stuff away for a plate of chocolate-chip pancakes, but these days, mom’s cucumber salad is one of those things I most look forward to when I’m at home.
Now you can join in on our tradition and learn to make it yourself.
You’ll need: a cucumber, five garlic cloves, cleaver or big knife to use for crushing and chopping, as well as ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese vinegar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, and ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper.
Next, cut cucumber in half, then slice each half lengthwise. Chop cucumber quarters into smaller pieces.
Now comes the flavor. Crush raw garlic cloves and mince.
Yes, you’ll want to have some breath mints handy for after the fact.
Add garlic to the cucumber.
If you’re unfamiliar with Chinese vinegar, here’s a picture so you know what to look for at the store. Like balsamic vinegar, Chinese vinegar is black. Unlike balsamic, this stuff is made with fermented rice instead of grapes, and has a maltier, sweeter flavor.
Chinese people are typically split in either soy sauce or vinegar camps. The Yangs are proud members of the latter.
Season with vinegar, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and ground white pepper.
Mix everything together. Bonus points if you use chopsticks.
In our house, we like to make this first before moving on to preparing other breakfast items. This salad is best after you let the flavors marinate for a few minutes.
And there you have it, an easy, refreshing, flavorful cucumber salad that makes a great side to congee (rice porridge typical of Chinese breakfasts) or any other dish. It’s a favorite of mine and I hope you like it too.
Also, tonight is my last-ever MBA class and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s to a great week and new beginnings. Happy Monday!
- 1 cucumber
- 5 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
- Whack cucumber with a cleaver or whatever whacking tools you have handy.
- Cut cucumber in half width-wise, then slice each half lengthwise. Chop cucumber quarters into smaller pieces.
- Crush garlic cloves and mince.
- Transfer cucumber and garlic to a bowl and add remaining seasoning, soy sauce, vinegar, oil and sugar.
- Mix everything together and serve.
- If you're making this salad as a side to a meal, I recommend making this first to let it sit and let the flavors marinate.