This Southern Thai cucumber relish, known as Ajat, is a popular and naturally vegan condiment. The bright, fresh flavors and crisp texture make it the perfect accompaniment to a rich curry or satay. Ajat is a popular street food condiment in Thailand, intended to bring a bit of acidity and bite as it cuts through the heartier and greasier foods that are so delicious in Thai cuisine.
After our recent trip to Thailand, and a visit to Portland’s Southern Thai restaurant Hat Yai, we were inspired to share this simple Thai condiment recipe. We love the simplicity and versatility of this dish. Depending on where we are, we’ll adapt it according to the ingredients we have available. In South Africa we use peri peri chili in place of Thai bird’s eye chili and back home in the USA we occasionally use jalapeños (which are significantly less spicy than the Thai bird’s eye or peri peri). Serve at room temperature and enjoy this relish as a condiment on the side. Don’t worry about the sweet, tart syrup; just scoop out the crisp pickled bits as a refreshing complement between bites of curry, satay or fried foods.
Thai Cucumber Relish (Ajat)
Yield: 3-4 servings as a condiment
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp water
- 350g English or garden cucumber; quartered lengthwise, deseeded and thinly sliced*
- 35g shallot, or red onion, thinly sliced*
- 1-2 fresh red chilies (e.g., Thai bird’s eye or peri peri), chopped*
- 5g cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and water in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool. Transfer the syrup to a bowl and add the cucumber, shallot and chili. Mix well and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately at room temperature.
Advance preparation: The syrup can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Add the remaining ingredients to the syrup just before serving.
Cucumber: Smaller Persian or Japanese cucumbers can also be used. Since there is no need to remove the seeds from these smaller cucumbers you will only need 225g. When using smaller cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise before thinly slicing on the bias. If you are using a larger cucumber like an English or garden cucumber, quarter it lengthwise and discard the seeds before thinly slicing.
Shallot or Red Onion: Preferably shallot, but red onion can be used in its place if you are unable to find shallot or happen to have red onion on hand.
Spicier version: We use two bird’s eye or peri peri chilies, for a spicier version simply add more chilies according to your taste. Jalapeños, while less spicy, can also be used in this recipe. Make use of the best ingredients available in your local market.