For the last day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’m showcasing the versatility of the humble cucumber and the commonalities between cuisines with two simple but elegant salads - a Kosambari from South India and a Korean Smashed Cucumber Salad adapted from My Korean Kitchen.
Kosambari, often served at wedding feasts, adds on crunchy moong dal, chilies and a traditional tempering of mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves. It is optionally garnished with fresh coconut.
Meanwhile, the Korean salad smashes cucumbers to draw out moisture, which makes them impossibly crunchy when chilled. Sesame seeds add texture along with gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and some minced garlic, soy sauce and vinegar for flavor.
Serve as sides or in a Buddha bowl.
1/4 cup/30g moong dal, soaked for an hour
1 English cucumber or 4 mini cucumbers (250g), diced
1-2 green chilis, to taste
1 tsp avocado oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/3 tsp salt, plus more to taste
6-8 fresh curry leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Drain the moong dal and add to the diced cucumber and chilis in a bowl. For the tempering, heat a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add asafoetida, salt and curry leaves, stir and turn off the stove. Pour the tempering over the cucumber and mix everything together. Add lemon juice and stir.
Korean Smashed Cucumber Salad
1 English cucumber or 4 mini cucumbers (250g), sliced into thin rounds
Sea salt for sprinkling
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1.5 tsp white sesame seeds
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp tamari or 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
1/3 tsp gochugaru, plus more to taste
Sprinkle sea salt over the cucumber slices and allow to sit for 20 minutes to draw out moisture. Squeeze out the water from the cucumber slices (a handful at a time) over a bowl - you can use a paper towel or nutmilk bag to do this if you like. Transfer the drained cucumber to a different bowl. In a small frying pan over medium heat, add oil, sesame seeds and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant and sesame seeds darken. Pour the tempering over the cucumber. Add tamari or soy sauce, vinegar and gochugaru and stir to mix.
Read more about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month here.