Spicy Cucumbers

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By Joan MacIsaac


I adapted this recipe from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey through Southeast Asia. The original recipe calls for Thai hot chiles that I have found difficult to find. In their place, you can substitute red pepper flakes. The cucumbers stay wonderfully crispy and refreshing in contrast to the heat of the chiles. This can be served as a condiment or on its own as a salad.


Makes 2 cups.


3 small cucumbers

2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons ginger, diced fine

2 Teaspoons peanut or canola oil

3–5 Thai dried chiles or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup cilantro leaves, packed and torn


1. In a small bowl combine the vinegar, sugar and ginger and stir to combine.

2. Peel the cucumbers or leave some of the skin if you like. Remove the ends, slice in half lengthwise and seed. Slice the halves into 2 or 3 wedges, lengthwise. Then slice into 2–inch pieces. Place the cucumbers in a medium bowl and toss with the vinegar-sugar mix and set aside for 20 minutes.

3. Heat a sauté pan on medium, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the dried chiles (or red pepper flakes) and serrano chiles and heat for 20–30 seconds.

4. When you are ready to serve, strain the vinegar marinade from cucumbers and pour the oil over the cucumbers.

5. Sprinkle with the salt and mix well. Add the cilantro leaves and serve.