Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Japanese-Style Cucumbers with Sesame Seeds

The other day, on a stop to Trader Joe's, I bought a couple of packages of Persian-style cucumbers.

They looked really good because they were small and looked fresh.

I decided to make them Japanese-style with sesame seeds.

There are a lot of recipes for Japanese-style cucumbers.

I had forgotten about the method of pounding the cucumbers to help them accept the marinade better--a technique I remember from my childhood.

I saw Harumi Kurihara's cooking show on my local PBS station just recently and she was pounding her cucumbers with a stick just like my grandmother had!

This is two packages of cucumbers from Trader Joe's.

It's about 16 small ones.

Wet your hands and dip them in a little bit of kosher salt.

I used about 1 teaspoon in all.

Rub the cucumbers, skin and all, with the salt.

You don't want to use a lot of salt, just lightly will do.

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, and pound lightly.

I used this meat pounder--with one or two hits--to lightly smash them.

That's all you need to do.

Also, no need to seed these cucumbers, the seeds were really small.

Put 2 tablespoons of iri goma (toasted sesame seeds) into a suribachi and grind the seeds.

I'm now on a quest to find myself a great stick to use with my suribachi, although I do have this one I purchased, but I don't think it has much character.

You can also use a coffee grinder, that works well, or a Magic Bullet blender.

Finely grate a small clove of garlic.

I tried to use this Japanese grater that I use to make daikon oroshi, but it eats up your fingers with such a small piece--and ended up using a micro planer.

Grate 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger root.

Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil.

1 teaspoon each of chili oil, chili flakes, vegetarian stir-fry sauce (or oyster sauce), 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or sugar), 1 tablespoon shoyu and 1/4 cup vinegar.

Before you put the sauce on the cucumbers, taste it.

Adjust the flavors.

You might like it sweeter or saltier, more vinegar or more chili.

After the flavors are adjusted, mix the cucumbers and sauce together.

Cover and refrigerate for a few minutes before serving--a few hours is okay too.

The cucumbers will last for several days, but at our house, they get eaten up quickly.



I love Japanese church cookbooks.

I have a lot of them.

Here are some of my favorites:

These are from Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin.

Book I was printed in 1973.

I got Book I as a gift and ordered II, III and IV--I liked them so much.

This one is called East-West Flavors and is from 1967-1966 by 
The Auxiliary--West Los Angeles JACL.

It's not a church cookbook, but the recipes are submitted by its members--like a church cookbook.

I got it in 1979 from Shiro & Margaret Takemoto. 

It's nice to write something on the inside--that way you'll always know where it came from, especially if it's a gift.

I bought this one, one year, for everyone in my family.

The UJCC was selling it as a fundraiser.

My favorite might just be this one by Senshin Buddhist Temple.

The photos are gorgeous.

I love what all the cookbooks have in common.

The recipes are submitted by cooks in their community, and everyone prides themselves on submitting their best recipes.

I wish each of the recipes had a photo to go along with the recipe, that would make the cookbooks, to me, perfect.

But I suppose one might say that without a photo, it leaves more to the imagination and encourages creativity.

While looking through the Otoki cookbook this morning, I came across a terrific quote that I just had to share.

It's about Itadakimasu.

Itadakimasu An expression used before partaking of a meal or when receiving something. Literally "to place on one's head," meaning to receive gratefully with appreciation by raising the object received to one's head and bowing slightly. Before the partaking of a meal, it is the ritual acknowledgement of all causes, conditions, and people involved in the preparation of the meal.

--Rev. Masato Kodani, Cocktails, Senshin Buddhist Temple Publications, 1992

All the while growing up, I've heard "'Tadakimassss!" before meals.

Thus--the use of "Itadakimasu" at the end of most posts.

I love the eloquent explanation by Rev. Kodani, above, as well as the photo of him on the cover of Otoki.

There are several other little cultural tidbits written in the margins of the cookbook that make nice reading.

The Booklady--Carolyn Sanwo of Heritage Source--carries the Otoki cookbook.


Japanese-style Cucumbers with Sesame Seeds


About 16 small cucumbers, about 2 lbs., crisp Persian cucumbers or Japanese cucumbers work well
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds, ground
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
1 small clove garlic, grated

1 tablespoon agave nectar (or sugar)
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1/4 cup vinegar


1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil and chili flakes
1 teaspoon vegetarian stir-fry sauce or oyster sauce

Wash the cucumbers and cut the ends off. Wet hands and sprinkle a little kosher salt on them, then rub the cucumbers with the salt, using about 1 teaspoon total. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Grind the sesame seeds and all all other desired ingredients. Mix well. Taste and adjust flavors.

Cut the cucumbers in half, lengthwise. Pound gently, once or twice, with a mallet or rolling pin, to lightly smash cucumbers. Break into bite-sized pieces. Mix with sauce. Chill before serving.


  1. Thanks for the recipe! I think I will try it tonight!

    I also have a collection of church cookbooks (including the East West Flavors and the Senshin one)but the one gets used a lot is the one from Centenary United Methodist Church in LA! It's a good one!

  2. @RobbieHi Robbie, thanks for the comment! I don't have the Centenary UM Cookbook, I'm going to need to get that one since you use it most! :)

  3. This looks really fun and creative! I love our church cookbooks too! Best ever...and they're all recipes made from love. :)

  4. My mom uses those Hongwanji cookbooks too, so I have to steal all of the recipes now that I've moved from Hawai'i to Oklahoma. I love your blog, I look at all of your recipes!

  5. Haha I have that Hongwanji Cookbook too (well one of them). I always wonder when they are going to do another one. You know which other one you might like is the Hawaiian Airlines cookbook- awesome recipes!

  6. This came out perfectly delicious! I made it yesterday as a side for a summer BBQ and everyone was delighted. Truly refreshing and satisfying!


  7. Where can I order the Betsuin's Favorite Island Cookbooks? I can't find anything online other than Ebay versions for $$.