These vegan Sautéed Chili Cucumbers combine simple methods with classic Asian flavors for a quick, easy and mildly spicy addition to any bowl of rice, noodles or congee. Most people don’t often think to cook cucumbers, but a quick sauté tenderizes the cucumbers while also infusing them with the garlic and the sweet, salty, sour and mildly spicy flavors of the chili sauce. Keeping the cucumbers chunky ensures they retain their crunchiness after quickly cooking them. This dish can be served warm or cold and pairs well with a garnish of sesame seeds, cilantro and thinly sliced fresh chili.
Our vegan Sautéed Chili Cucumbers are inspired by our trips to Taiwan, where we often enjoy a variety of cucumber dishes. This recipe cooks up quickly, requires minimal prep time and brings an added depth and crunch to any dish. The addition of sugar and rice vinegar balances the bite of the chili and garlic and neutralizes the heat of the gochujang (Korean red pepper paste).
In Taiwan they use Taiwanese cucumbers, which can occasionally be found in Chinese supermarkets. Taiwanese cucumbers are long and thin. They have a thinner skin and a crisper texture than the typical cucumbers found in American grocery stores. Japanese or Persian cucumbers are suitable and more accessible substitutes. In this dish, we used organic Persian cucumbers from Trader Joe’s.
Sautéed Chili Cucumbers
Yield: 2 servings as a side
- 250g Japanese or Persian cucumbers
- 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1½ tsp rice bran or other neutral oil
For the Chili Sauce
- 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)*
- 4 tsp warm water
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- ½ tsp vegan cane or palm sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Pinch of black or white sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp roughly chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 bird’s eye chili, de-seeded and thinly sliced
Chop off and discard the ends of the cucumbers. Slice the cucumbers into chunks on the bias, rotating the cucumbers as you slice them at an angle. Keep the cucumbers fairly chunky. There’s a helpful video on how to cut on the bias while rotating.
To prepare the chili sauce, mix all of the ingredients in a small glass or measuring bowl until the sugar dissolves and set aside.
Heat the oil over medium-high. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the cucumbers and sauce and stir to incorporate. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7-8 minutes. Once the cucumbers are tender and have a slight coating of sauce, remove from the pan. Garnish with sesame seeds, cilantro and chili. Serve warm or cold with rice, noodles or congee and your preferred protein.
Advance preparation: This dish can be prepared warm or cold overnight.
Gochujang: This recipe uses Jayone (Product of Korea) gochujang. The spiciness will vary greatly depending on the brand of gochujang you’re using. Taste first before using. You may need to add more sugar if the gochujang you are using is especially spicy. You can find gochujang at Asian markets and a number of other grocery stores now.