Dali-Style Cucumber with Vinegar and Chile Sauce Recipe

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The cold cucumber salads served in Dali are some of the richest and most flavorful in China, slathered with spicy chile sauce and sticky-sweet dark soy in addition to the vinegar, garlic, and cilantro that are commonly used to dress cucumbers in other parts of the country. This version comes from a young woman named Yang Haxiang, who lives in Old Town Dali with her family in a cozy house just a few steps from the city’s famous West Gate.


  • 2 cucumbers, preferably bumpy-skinned Chinese cucumbers or thin English “seedless” cucumbers
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. thinly sliced cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 tbsp. Zhenjiang vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tsp. chile sauce (lajiao jiang)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce


1.) Peel the cucumbers, then smash them with the flat side of a cleaver and cut them into 11/2-inch chunks. Add the garlic, cilantro, and seasonings to the cucumber and mix well.

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Reprinted with permission from Cooking South of the Clouds by Georgia Freedman and published by Kyle Books, 2018.

Inspiration for edible alchemy.