Japanese Cucumber Salad (きゅうりとワカメの酢の物)

This simple salad is a classic kind of sunomono that you may have encountered before in a restaurant. In Japanese, the term sunomono (酢の物) literally means “vinegared food”, and is applied to a whole family of dainty Japanese salads flavored with a subtle, vinegar-based marinade and sometimes topped with seafood. Sunomono isn’t exactly a side dish: instead, in a typical Japanese meal, sunomono is considered a “hashi-yasume” (箸休め) which literally translates as “chopstick vacation”, i.e.,  a little “palate-cleanser” that contrasts with and accentuates the main dishes in the meal. This recipe makes 4 small “hashi-yasume”-sized servings, and can be made completely vegetarian if you omit the crab sticks and substitute kombu dashi or water in place of bonito-based dashi stock.


  • 2 Japanese cucumbers (2/3 English cucumber)
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon wakame
  • 4 crab sticks (kanikama) (optional)
  • Roasted white sesame seeds (optional)


  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dashi stock (For vegetarians, use kombu dashi or water)

1. If you are using Japanese cucumbers, this step called “itazuri” is necessary. Wash each cucumber and sprinkle salt. With both hands, rub the cucumber against the cutting board. This will remove the pointy bumps on the cucumbers so that they will more easily absorb the dressing.

2. Peel the cucumbers and slice into thin slices.

3. Sprinkle salt and rub the cucumber slices against each other gently with hands. After the cucumber is wilted (about 5 minutes), wash the cucumber under cold water. Squeeze the cucumber to get rid of water.

4. Put dried wakame in a small bowl and soak in water. After 10 minutes, squeeze dry to get rid of excess water.

5. Cut the crab sticks in half.

6. In a small saucepan, combine dressing ingredients and mix well. Heat just until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

7. In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, wakame, and crab sticks. Pour the dressing over and mix together. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve at room temperature or chilled.