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you and me in the summertime

Recipe: thai cucumber salad

The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is coated in yellow over here. Every morning for the past couple of days and for the next two weeks, we will wake to a light dusting of pine pollen around our house. My morning ritual includes claritin, a nasal steroid spray, and allergy eye drops. So far so good.

But as most of you know, I straddle two seasons at any given time because Boulder is always warmer (nay, hotter!). So last week when I attended and photographed the grand opening for my friend’s awesome new restaurant Pica’s Boulder (5360 Arapahoe), it was hot. Not only was it hot, but the mosquitoes found me and loved my ankles to itty bitty bits, or bites. However, the hanger steak tacos were so absolutely worth it. Bite for bite, you know.

chef andy, chef trent

skewered amazing tantalizing shrimp

“you want some fire?”


Pica’s Boulder is open, kids. Head on down there to try their fabulous food, support a local business, and perhaps catch some World Cup action on the television. Authentic Mexican food has finally arrived in Boulder. Let’s show Pica’s some love.

And speaking of love… my world is blooming at last. Colorado’s high country will light up with colorful waves of wildflowers washing higher into the mountains as summer wears on. We like it. We like it very much.

the aspen leaves are getting bigger

snowfields give way to green alpine plants

alpine lakes paint their own watercolors

wild strawberry blossoms

western wallflower

Hot weather and the upcoming Food and Light workshop mean I need cooking to be simple, fast, and of low thermal consumption. I am a fool for pickles and I am especially so for Asian pickled vegetables.

rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt

rough peeling cucumbers

I used to frequent Min’s Kitchen during my Southern California days. It is popular with the NASA JPL lunch crowd and the owner is a darling little woman who always greeted me and my friend, Squid (that’s not her real name – it’s a term of endearment), with such warmth. Once we sat down, they always brought a small dish with a pickled cucumber salad. Pickles always come in small dishes. Why is that? I could eat pickles until my stomach aches (and I have).

scrape out the insides

slice thin

You don’t have to slice the cucumbers thin. You can slice them chunky if that is your preference. But if you have a Kyocera ceramic knife, you can’t help but slice everything thin – as thin as possible. It takes over your mind…

slice red onions… thin

and don’t forget to chop up some mint and cilantro

I know people either love or hate cilantro. I used to hate it and now I love it. Jeremy used to wrinkle his nose at it, but the more we eat Vietnamese or Thai foods, the more we love cilantro. The herbs are completely optional, but I swear they bring out the coolness and the fragrance of the salad. A veritable party in your mouth.

place cucumbers and onions in a bowl

add coarsely chopped herbs

Red onions are mild, sweet, and crunchy. I always underestimate the onion, but more and more I discover it is the unsung hero of many a dish that I love. Not to mention the beautiful purple adds a nice dash of color.

pour in the dressing


I added a pinch of red pepper flakes to the dressing because I didn’t have a Thai bird chili on hand to chop up and toss in with the salad. It’s ever so slightly spicy. The salad need only sit for a few minutes before serving, but it will last in the refrigerator for a few days if not a week. It’s always eaten within a couple of days at our house. Do you recall the grilled salmon panang from two weeks ago? I served this salad alongside the curry. Talk about a perfect match. This time I served it with grilled shrimp panang.

cut the heat

Thai Cucumber Salad
[print recipe]

4 tbsps sugar
2 tbsps rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsps water
1 Thai bird chili, roughly chopped or pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups cucumbers, roughly peeled, gutted, and sliced (1 English or 3 Persian)
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, water, and if using – the red pepper flakes in a small sauce pan over high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let it come to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer for a minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Place the chili (if not using red pepper flakes), cucumber, onion, mint, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Pour the dressing over the contents of the bowl and toss to coat. Serves 4 as a side salad.

34 nibbles at “you and me in the summertime”

  1. Memoria says:

    What a beautiful salad. Wow. I never get tired of admiring your photos.

  2. Sindy says:

    I could live on this stuff. I have been winging the recipe. Perhaps the mint is the ingredient I have been missing. DEF trying this TODAY!!!

  3. Julie says:

    I’ve had a thai cucumber salad bookmarked for a while. Yours looks lovely. Maybe tonight!

  4. tami says:

    Such beautiful photos, Jen :) I’ve been making this salad in my head for about 3 weeks and just haven’t gotten around to it. I dunno why – it’s so ungodly blazingly hot here, it would be a perfect food right about now. Lots of hugs to you! xoxo

  5. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Yummy salad, Jen! Is Pica on the mall or is it somewhere else? Can’t wait to try it!

  6. Susan @ SGCC says:

    Looks like a perfect dish to beat the Summer heat! And, we’ve got Summer heat down here in spades! A definite “must try”. xoxo

  7. Wei-Wei says:

    I agree with Memoria. Your photos never cease to amaze me. And this salad… I would reduce the onions, but they seem like the perfect summer salad :)


  8. M @ Betty Crapper says:

    I’ve been wanting to make a cucumber salad. I’m going to make this to take to the beach on Saturday. Thanks.

  9. Judy says:

    Love those cucumber salads. The serving bowls are much too small! Wish I’d known about Min’s Kitchen when I worked at JPL. Last week I tried a new Thai restaurant in town, and based on your write-up, ordered the panang curry. Delicious!

    Western wallflowers have always been one of my favorites, too.

  10. Kalynskitchen says:

    I love this type of cucumber salad, looks so good!

  11. Valérie says:

    Yum, what a great summer salad! I could eat cucumbers all day!

  12. Georgia Pellegrini says:

    There’s something about vinegary, fresh, bright salads that are perfect for summer. Even if you live in a milder climate.

  13. Gord says:

    mmm sounds delicious! I’m sure it would make a nice refreshing salad. Can’t wait to try it out

  14. Mrs Ergül says:

    I will never be able to slice the onions paper thin!! Great looking salad Jen!

    Lovely shots of Colorado again! What f-stop do you usually use when taking photos of the snowfields?

  15. Shar says:

    I mixed this up last night – sans the mint – and I have a new addiction! I just couldn’t get enough of this stuff. O to the M to the G!!!!!
    Thank you so much for this recipe! Love your site, I’ve been a follower for some time now and I check it every day :)

  16. Jane M says:

    My cucumber salad is called the 1-2-3 salad. One cup sugar, 2 cups vinegar, 3 cups water. Boil these 3 ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Then pour over sliced cukes and onion. Salt and pepper to taste. All my friends now use this recipe every summer! I prefer the gerkin type cukes.

    On a side note, I really enjoy your photography! Amazing! Truly. Oh and your dog – so so cute – enjoy seeing photos of her too.

  17. Jenn says:

    So I am pretty sure I saw you yesterday and am so bummed I was too chicken to say hello. Love your blog and your photos, here is hoping I run into you again and tell you how great I think you are! So if that girl staring at who was maybe you freaked you out yesterday it was me, just trying to decide if it really was you. Loving your pictures lately, I love how beautiful our mountains are becoming right now!

  18. Hettar7 says:

    That looks absolutely amazing. I love thai flavors (thank you thai friends from college and a trip to thailand several years later).

  19. Marisa says:

    Great salad – fresh & simple, the way salads should be.

  20. E.L. says:

    Hi! Stumbled across your site a few weeks ago, and it’s great!!! I am an Asian American living in the Denver area, and I also love food and being outside… Quick question – where are these beautiful alpine lakes that you keep hiking to?!?! I am always up for new hikes, esp if my dog can swim in a lake at the end…

  21. Caitlin says:

    Oh that sounds absolutely fresh and refreshing! I love homemade pickles and anything with that pickled flavor. Pickled red cabbage is a bit of an obsession for me.

  22. jenyu says:

    TKW – It’s on Arapahoe and Conestoga – gooooood stuff. Tell Trent I sent ya! xo

    Wei-Wei – I thought I would want less onions too, but red onions are super mild and add a really nice crunch. Try them, I’ll bet you’ll like them.

    Mrs E – uh… landscapes are usually anywhere from f8 to fgazillion. actually, they can be anything depending on what I want to show.

    Jenn – you know, hon. I’m a normal person, not a celebrity at all. I hate celebrity. So if you see me in town, you should just say hi. If you stalk me, I will have to punch you in the face, but otherwise ;) just say hi next time! xo

    EL – the lakes are all in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Lovely.

    Caitlin – I really love pickled anything.

  23. Lucie says:

    Thai cucumber salad is the one thing I could probably eat every single day of the year–I love yours! Your pictures are absolutely beautiful :)

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  25. M @ Betty Crapper says:

    Just wanted to let you know I did end up making the salad, with red pepper flakes, and took it to the beach. My mother and I loved it. It was absolutely perfect on that hot day and I’ll be making it again.

  26. Sandi says:

    Why is it the cucumber os so simple, but soooooo delicious!

    I make a German and also a Persian Style Cucumber Salad whenever they are in season.

  27. Carol Case says:

    Thanks for the recipe, but especially thanks for the photos of Mt. Albion and the wildflowers. I’m from Boulder, too, but now live in Oregon.

  28. Carol Case says:

    Sorry, I meant Mt. Audubon. Mt. Albion is in the same Indian Peaks range.

  29. Jean says:

    I’m so grateful to you every year for this recipe, Jen! Now that spring has rolled back around I’m back to this salad, which I fell in love with last summer and which immediately became a permanent resident in my fridge. This is one of those bonus recipes that’s so simple to make, but has a huge payoff in flavor and versatility. It’s good on everything – grilled shrimp tacos, grilled salmon, chicken sandwiches, hotdogs – everything! Thank you and hooray for spring!

  30. Marsha says:

    this salad is so good! my husband is always asking me to make it. Thank you!

  31. Lynn says:

    My boyfriend is a cucumber HATER yet will DEVOUR this salad. I made it last night for the second time and had to warn him 3 times not to eat it all before I had some — finally I got too worried and stood right next to him while he ate it straight out of the bowl. (He’s French so I worried he might claim he hadn’t understood me, lol) Then this morning he suggested I make it again with shrimp or salmon. Gee, I’d never thought of that ;)

    So thanks!!!

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  33. cheryl says:

    This salad is DA BOMB!!!I wish I found your site sooner I’ve tried three of the recipes and they are all soo gooodddd. As a student I don’t have much time to buy a lot of ingredients or time to make food. But these are all so easy, healthy and fast! This salad is my all time fav. Thanks, you are awesome.

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