If you know, you know about the crunchy, garlicky, Spicy Cucumbers at everyone's favorite dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung. This recipe is a near exact dupe and just way too easy not to make at home. Shall we?
- What are the Spicy Cucumbers from Din Tai Fung?
- Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Spicy Cucumbers
- Ingredients You Need
- What Kind of Cucumbers?
- Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- VIDEO: Watch How to Make
- Instructions for How to Make Spicy Cucumbers
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment
- Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
- More Spicy Cucumbers
- Spicy Cucumbers Recipe, Din Tai Fung Dupe
What are the Spicy Cucumbers from Din Tai Fung?
I am notorious for ordering multiples of the Spicy Cucumbers at Din Tai Fung for myself. Because that is generally frowned upon, at least by my family, I now do my best to retrain myself whenever we go out to eat, but will make this entire recipe for myself at home.
Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Spicy Cucumbers
This recipe as presented is:
- gluten-free, if you use tamari or other gluten-free soy-like sauce
- vegetarian, 100% plant-based suitable for vegans
Ingredients You Need
- Spicy Sauce which is made of
- Chili oil
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce or tamari
- Rice Vinegar
And if you really want that exact dupe, add the slice of fresh red Fresno chili pepper or red jalapeño pepper.
What Kind of Cucumbers?
The best cucumbers for this Spicy Cucumbers recipe are the small, thin-skinned "seedless" Persian cucumbers. I get Persian cucumbers from the local farmers market, or organic at the grocery store. I have also seen similar small cucumbers at regular grocery called "baby cucumbers." They work as long as they have a lighter, thinner skin, as do the much larger English seedless cucumbers.
Any thin-skinned cucumber like an English cucumber works for this recipe as well.
What does not work as well are dark, thick-skinned conventional cucumbers with large seeds. If those cucumbers are the only ones you can find, and you're really craving that garlicky spicy sauce, here is my recommendation. Peel the cucumbers completely, slice them in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a spoon, the way you'd remove seeds from a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, then proceed with chopping and the rest of the recipe.
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Chili oil: I use la yu style chili oil, which is a red-orange hued oil infused with chili, then strained, so it is only oil with no little pieces of dried chili or spices. This brand has only two ingredients, oil and chili, as opposed to some other brands that have added colors, etc. La yu chili oil is different from chili crisp, which is a chili oil that has pieces of dried chili, garlic, and other spices in it. You can use that too! Just use the oil and leave the crisp delicious bits at the bottom of the jar.
- Sesame oil: Use toasted sesame oil, which is dark brown and adds a nutty, umami fragrance to the vinaigrette. I use a non-GMO toasted sesame oil, this one is organic!
- Tamari: Tamari is Japanese-style soy sauce brewed without the use of wheat so it is gluten-free. If you are not sensitive to wheat, the two are essentially interchangeable. I use this brand, which is organic. For most soy-based products (soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, etc), try to buy organic or non-GMO, since soy beans are one of the crops that are more often sprayed with harmful weed-killing chemicals.
- Rice Vinegar: I use this brand organic brown rice vinegar. If you don't have rice vinegar, use any other light/mild vinegar or even lemon/lime juice. Do not use distilled white vinegar, which you should only ever use to de-scale your coffee-maker.
- All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market.
VIDEO: Watch How to Make
Instructions for How to Make Spicy Cucumbers
Making Spicy Cucumbers is pretty easy, and you really only have to spend the majority of your time waiting for the cucumbers to drain their water!
Slice cucumbers into ¾-inch thick discs.
Toss sliced cucumbers with 2 teaspoons salt and let them sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours.
While the cucumbers are draining, make the Spicy Sauce: combine sliced garlic, chili oil, and sesame oil in a small bowl. With a spoon or whisk, very gently press the garlic into the oil against the sides of the bowl to release some of its essence into the oil.
Add the tamari (or soy sauce), rice vinegar, sugar, and 2 tablespoons warm water and stir until sugar dissolves. Taste. By itself, the sauce should be saltier and sweeter than is comfortable for you. If it tastes way too salty or sweet, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Drain and discard the water that has collected from the cucumbers. Rinse the cucumbers with fresh water. Pat the cucumbers as dry as possible with a clean kitchen towel.
Return the dried off cucumbers to the bowl. Toss cucumbers with the sauce in a bowl.
Transfer dressed cucumbers to shallow serving bowl or platter with high sides. You can stack the cucumbers like Din Tai Fung does. Pour the sauce over the cucumbers. You can leave the garlic slices with the sauce, or hold them back.
Garnish the Spicy Cucumbers with a slice of garlic and Fresno pepper if using.
Pro-tip: Though the recipe says you can technically let the cucumbers sit with the salt to drain out for just 30 minutes and they will be good, they will be great if you let them sit for an hour. Plan ahead!
Substitutions and Variations
If you have trouble finding any of the ingredients for this recipe, here are some suggested substitutions and variations:
- Cucumbers - If you can't find Persian cucumbers, look for English hothouse cucumbers. They are the long, skinny ones, sometimes individually wrapped in plastic. If you can't find those, you can try conventional cucumbers. Just completely peel off the thick dark waxy skin, halve them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.
- Alternative soy sauce - Substitute any kind of alternative soy sauce like coconut aminos/liquid aminos in the same amount.
- Alternative sweetener - You can use an alternative sweetener like stevia/erythritol that's similar to granulated sugar in the equivalent sweetness amount. If you want to use a natural sweetener like agave, honey, or maple syrup, feel free, though the flavor of the final dish will be pretty different.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe. However, that's not to say there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make it a LOT easier to get Spicy Cucumbers from your fridge to your fork (or chopsticks!).
- My workhorse kitchen knife
- oversized wooden cutting board for all those cucumbers
- Glass mixing bowls for draining cucumber and making sauce
- Mini ¼-cup liquid measuring cup to save the cucumber juice if you're into that kind of thing
- Mini whisk
- Glass storage container with airtight lids, perfect size for storing the Spicy Sauce if you make it in advance, or the final Spicy Cucumbers
Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
You can make the Spicy Sauce up to one (1) day in advance. Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and toss with drained cucumbers when ready to serve!
You can prepare and salt the cucumbers up to 4 hours in advance. The final dish will actually taste even better with that extra drainage time.
You can store leftover Spicy Cucumbers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to two days, though they will begin to lose a lot of their fresh crunch and becore more pickled.
This recipe does not freeze.
I wasn't kidding when I said I am obsessed with the Spicy Cucumbers at Din Tai Fung.
More Spicy Cucumbers
- Spicy Cucumber Avocado Salad, pictured above
- Korean Spicy Cucumber Salad aka Oi Muchim, similar but different
Spicy Cucumbers Recipe, Din Tai Fung Dupe
- 1 pound Persian or other thin-skinned cucumbers
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 garlic clove peeled, green germ removed and sliced razor thin
- 1 teaspoon chili oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar plus more to taste (or other sweetener)
- 2-4 tablespoons warm water
- optional garnish: sliced Fresno pepper or red jalapeño pepper
- Slice cucumbers crosswise into ¾-inch wide discs. You can make the cucumbers thinner if you prefer.
- Place the sliced cucumbers in a bowl, toss with salt, and let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours to draw some of the water out of the cucumbers.
Make Spicy Sauce
- While the cucumbers are draining, make the Spicy Sauce. Combine sliced garlic, chili oil, and sesame oil in a small bowl. With a spoon, very gently press the garlic into the oil against the sides of the bowl to release some of its essence into the oil.
- Add the tamari (or soy sauce), rice vinegar, sugar, and 2 tablespoons warm water and stir until sugar dissolves. Taste. By itself, the sauce should be saltier and sweeter than is comfortable for you. If it tastes way too salty or sweet, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Assemble Spicy Cucumbers
- Drain the cucumbers, discard the salted water or save for another use though I don't know what, and rinse the cucumbers with fresh water. Pat the cucumbers as dry as possible with a clean kitchen towel.
- Toss cucumbers with the sauce in a bowl. Transfer dressed cucumbers to shallow serving bowl or platter with high sides. You can stack the cucumbers like Din Tai Fung does.
- Pour the sauce over the cucumbers. You can leave the garlic slices with the sauce, or hold them back.
- Garnish the Spicy Cucumbers with a slice of garlic and Fresno pepper if using.