Sunomono (酢の物), which literally means “vinegared dish” is a Japanese cucumber salad that typically includes cucumber and wakame marinated in a tangy, sweet and savory dressing.
Sunomono is a traditional side dish that’s usually served in a small kobachi bowl to accompany a traditional meal of rice, miso soup, and grilled fish. Other traditional Japanese sides include hijiki, kinpira, and goma-ae.
The sauce is a simple oil-free dressing made with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.
Aside from the dressing, the only other required ingredient is cucumber. I like using Japanese cucumbers for their texture, vibrant color, and lack of seeds. If you can’t find Japanese cucumbers, other thin-skinned cucumbers such as Lebanese or Persian ones are suitable substitutes. If you can’t find those either, Hothouse (a.k.a. English) cucumbers will work in a pinch, but you’ll want to cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds before slicing it.
Beyond cucumber, most people also include wakame, which is a type seaweed. It usually comes dried or salted and needs to be rinsed and rehydrated in cold water for a few minutes before being used. Once rehydrated wakame should look like thin frilly sheets of dark green paper.
To give the salad a bit more substance, I like to add some cooked seafood such as shrimp, crab, or octopus. You can also get a little creative here and add other proteins such as shredded chicken breast or edamame.
The key to getting the proper texture in the cucumbers is to slice them thinly and salt them. Through osmosis, the salt removes excess water from the cucumbers, preventing the salad from getting watery. It also changes the texture of the cukes, giving them a sonorous crunch with every bite.
Once the cucumbers have been salted and squeezed, it’s just a matter of tossing them together with the other ingredients and dressing.
- 260 grams Japanese Cucumbers (~2 cucumbers)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 45 grams wakame
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 pieces crab meat (or shrimp or octopus for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)
- 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 cooked shrimp, crab, or octopus and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.