Tossed with wakame seaweed and imitation crab meat, this sweet and tangy Japanese Cucumber Salad goes well with any Japanese-style meal. Make this refreshing side dish for your next potluck or dinner party. It will be a big hit!
A typical Japanese meal consists of one main dish of meat or seafood with rice and miso soup, complemented by several side dishes.
Today’s recipe is a sweet and tangy Japanese Cucumber Salad with Crab (きゅうりとワカメと蟹の酢の物) that goes well with any dinner meal. This easy salad happens to be one of the side dishes that I prepare regularly.
A Classic Japanese Cucumber Salad for Your Everyday Meal
In Japan, this type of side dish or salad is called Sunomono (酢の物), which translated to “vinegar food”. Growing up, my mom made sure we have different kinds of side dishes including a sunomono dish during mealtime. The Japanese believe vinegar is an important part of our diet due to its many benefits such as controlling blood sugar levels. You can find out more information on vinegar here.
The most typical sunomono includes thinly sliced cucumber and wakame seaweed dressed in rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. We tend to overlook the health benefits of cucumbers, but they are actually high in fiber and great for digestion. That is why you can often find cucumber being served as salads in Japanese meals.
To yield a better texture for the salad, sprinkle the cucumber with a little salt, and rub it gently to pull out some of the water so they stay crisp. The crunch of the cucumber matches well with the soft wakame seaweed in a delicious tangy vinegar dressing. For today’s recipe, I also added imitation crabmeat for some pop of color, but it’s completely optional. You can still enjoy it as a vegetarian dish without the crab sticks.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
- If you are using Japanese cucumber, this step called itazuri is necessary. Wash 2 Japanese or Persian cucumbers and sprinkle them with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. With both hands, rub the cucumber against the cutting board. It removes the pointy bumps on the cucumber and helps absorb the dressing.
- Alternate peeling ½-inch (1.3-cm) strips of skin lengthwise and leaving strips of skin intact. With this striped pattern, the cucumber slices have some decorative dark green accents and a little bit of extra crunchiness. Cut the cucumbers into thin slices, about ⅛-inch (3 mm) thickness (or even thinner).
- Sprinkle with Diamond Crystal kosher salt and rub the cucumber slices gently with your hands. Let it rest for 5 minutes or so until they are wilted. Then, quickly rinse the cucumber slices under cold water. Squeeze the cucumber to get rid of the water.
- Put 1 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed in a small bowl and soak in water for 10 minutes to rehydrate. Squeeze dry to get rid of the water.
- Cut 4 real or imitation crabmeat sticks in half and shred it with your hands.
- In a small saucepan, combine the dressing ingredients: 3 Tbsp rice vinegar (unseasoned), 1 Tbsp sugar, ½ Tbsp soy sauce, ¼ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and 2 Tbsp dashi (Japanese soup stock). Mix well. Then, heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, wakame, and shredded crab sticks. Pour the dressing on top and mix together. Sprinkle toasted white sesame seeds and enjoy the salad at room temperature or chilled.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for a day. However, the crispness of the cucumbers will be lost and the seasoning may become diluted due to moisture released from the cucumber.