With the heat of summer descending upon Japan earlier this year, I’ve been craving fast, light food, and this Sunomono, along with a bowl of rice and miso soup has really been hitting the spot. To give it a bit more substance, I’ve added wakame and crab meat to my Sunomono, but it’s also pretty common to include other seafood such as octopus, shrimp, or fish cake. It’s also totally acceptable to leave the seafood out and roll with just cucumbers and wakame.
Wakame is a type of seaweed that usually comes either dried or salted. Depending on how it’s been preserved you’ll need to rehydrate it before using it. For the dried variety you can usually just soak it in the cold water and then wash it before using. For the salted variety, you’ll need to soak it in a few changes of water to remove the salt and rehydrate it.
For the cucumber I like using Japanese cucumbers for their texture, vibrant colors, and lack of seeds, but if you can’t find Japanese cucumbers, Persian (a.k.a. Lebanese) Cucumbers, will work as well. If you can’t find those either, Hothouse (a.k.a. English) Cucumbers will work, but you’ll want to cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, before you slice it.
By salting and squeezing excess liquid from the cucumbers, it not only prevents the salad from getting watery, it changes their texture, giving the sunomono a sonorous crunch with every bite.
Sunomono is usually served as a side dish in a small kobachi bowl along with several other sides such as hijiki, kinpira, and goma-ae, but it can also work well as a stand-alone salad. While not traditional, I’ve also found that sunomono makes for a great topping for a bowl of chilled noodles, such as sōmen or udon.
For another delicious Japanese cucumber salad that’s dressed with sesame and miso, and served over rice, check out my Hiyashijiru recipe.
- Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible and then add the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat evenly and then let the cucumbers rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Rehydrate the wakame according to the package directions and chop into bite-size pieces.
- Once the cucumbers start sweating liquid, you can massage them with you hand to speed up the process. When the cucumbers become translucent they are ready to be squeezed.
- Grab the cucumbers with your hands and squeeze as much water from them as you can.
In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt until the solids are dissolved.
- Add the squeezed cucumber, and wakame to the vinegar mixture and toss everything together to coat.
Serve the sunomono in small kobachi bowls, and garnish with crab meat and toasted sesame seeds.