Spicy 5-minute cucumber salad in 6-ingredients is the perfect oil free, low calorie side that adds a zing of fresh flavor. Quick? Check. Easy? You bet. Delicious? Most certainly!
Tradition, habit, whatever, it’s what we do
We first discovered a version of this deliciously simple salad at our favorite Indonesian restaurant here in The Hague. It didn’t take us long after that first visit several years ago for us to make this at home. Our friend who owns the restaurant didn’t lose out though – we still order it every time we go. Tradition? Habit? I’ve never honestly thought about it. We just like it and thus we eat it.
zam-bahl U-lek (this is the spicy part)
Sambal oelek is a staple in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. Sambal means sauce with chili peppers, although there can be many variations depending on region. Oelek is actually the Dutch spelling (yes, there’s some history to this). You might also see sambal ulek which means the same thing – a mortar and pestle. Put that together, you get chili paste.
Give it to me straight
With so few ingredients other than chili, Sambal Oelek is quite spicy. If you’ve not used it before, be mindful to start with small amounts and work up from there. This is a polite way to suggest that you taste your mixture of sambal, lime juice and agave and adjust accordingly.
Can I use Sriracha instead?
Look for sambal oelek with the hot sauces, including sriracha. There are differences between the two hot sauces. Sambal is a pure paste of ground chili. Sriracha has more ingredients and takes on a spicy, garlicy, and slightly sweet flavor. If you use sriracha for this recipe, you’ll want to cut down (or eliminate) the agave syrup so it’s not too sweet. Chili garlic paste (another cousin) will give you extra garlic and sugar so adjust accordingly.
Grab spoon, arm with knife
I admit it. I’ve not peeled a cucumber in decades. If you wash them, the peels of cucumbers add a lovely color and help keep the softer middle holding its shape. This is especially true if you deseed your cucumbers, which is something I do most of the time. It’s true, the seeds are a good source of fiber, but some folks (including one in my family) find them a bit difficult to digest.
The fun part
I know this is weird, but I find deseeding cucumbers quite relaxing. It’s a quick joy for a 5-minute salad, but I’ll take it. I use my little teaspoon because it has just the right edge, but if I’m in a hurry (or when I can’t find it), a regular teaspoon will accomplish this task in a jiff.
The super-quick, quick pickle
This is be no chemistry lesson, but the acid in the lime juice plus the chilis in the sambal oelek will set to work straight away to pickle your cucumbers, green onions and fresh red chilis. As a result, your cucumbers will get softer and take on a bit of a red hue as the chili gets to work.
not quite a pickle, but close
This is not the pure quick pickle process like you get with quick pickled onions, but if you leave this salad for a bit, you’ll start to notice the pickling process happening. I can attest that this salad is even better the next day, so make ahead if you want.
Even a spicy 5-minute cucumber salad recipe can have a history, tradition or ritual. I once heard tradition described as ‘the way we do things around here’. Makes sense. If a simple cucumber salad can become a tradition after the first visit to a restaurant. If we establish a history of going to that restaurant and ordering the same thing, I wonder if that pattern can have broader implications.
When I made the decision to just ‘be’ plant-based, it freed me. The debate about healthful eating was over. The shouts from the side ended. Tradition, ritual, the way we do things around here. No debate. It just is. Peace.Print
Spicy 5-minute cucumber salad in 6 ingredients is the perfect oil free, healthy side dish. Fiery sambal oelek with lime adds zest to your meal in minutes.
- 1 cucumber, deseeded and sliced
- 1 red chili, thinly sliced
- 3 green onions (scallions), thinly slice the white parts
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 1–2 tsp. sambal oelek (depending on how spicy you like it)
- 2 tsp. agave syrup or another liquid sweetener
- Cut the cucumber in half and then slice each half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, deseed the cucumber. Lay each quarter flat on the cutting board and slice into thin, half moons.
- Thinly slice the red chili. If you want to remove the seeds to reduce the heat, cut the chili in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, then slice thinly.
- Thinly slice the green onions.
- Place everything in a small dish.
- In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup lime juice, 2 tsp. agave syrup (or other sweetener) and 1-2 tsp. sambal oelek.
- Add the dressing to the cucumber, pepper and onions. Mix well and serve.
- Red chilis add extra heat and color to this salad; however, you can substitute a jalapeno or leave the chili out and rely on the sambal oelek for the spiciness (you may want to adjust the amount).
- Although I prefer lime juice, I first had this dish with lemon juice. This requires adding extra sweetener if you go that direction.
- This salad could also be made with sweet shallots or red onions rather than green onions. Aim for no more than ¼ cup.
- Category: On the Side
- Cuisine: Indonesian
Keywords: spicy 5-minute cucumber salad