Cucumbers are touted for their refreshing qualities and make an ideal summertime addition to cocktails and meals. The fruit (yes, cucumber is technically a fruit) has been cultivated for thousands of years and is a warm-season crop. Cucumbers require sun to grow, and lots of it, so you’ll find them popping up in Texas once the last frost has passed.
“We use a lot of cucumbers in Malaysian cuisine,” says Alex Au-Yeung, chef of Phat Eatery in Katy, about thirty miles west of Houston. He uses cucumber as a garnish atop chicken, as a side with chicken and beef satay, and as a base for salads.
“I grew up in Hong Kong,” Au-Yeung says. “It’s a subtropical climate and I ate quite a bit of cucumber—there are all different kinds of cucumbers in Asia.”
The recipe he shares is a bright and refreshing salad with some kick, thanks to Thai chiles. “It’s peak cucumber season in Texas right now,” he says. “So that’s why I chose this dish.”
The salad also incorporates red onions, coconut, red bell pepper, and kaffir lime. If you’d like to escalate it a notch, add kanikama (imitation crab meat) or even real crab.
Kerabu Cucumber Salad
The water-dense fruit (yes, cucumber is a fruit) serves as a great base for a cooling salad that kicks it up a notch with a spicy dressing.
For the salad:
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 4 Persian cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 cup kanikama or real crab meat (optional)
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons sweet chile sauce
- 1 teaspoon sambal or 1 Thai chile, finely chopped
- salt, to taste
To make the dressing, squeeze lime juice into a bowl and add red onion, chile sauce, and sambal or chopped chile. Set aside.
To make the salad, toast coconut in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat until light brown. Set aside to cool. Mix cucumbers and red bell pepper with the dressing. Toss with toasted coconut and add salt to taste. Top with kanikama or crab, if desired.