Serves 4 as a side
4 small to medium Persian cucumbers (about 1 pound)
Fine sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Chinkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon white pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon hot chili oil (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, both stems and leaves
Using the flat side of a cleaver or a rolling pin, lightly smash or roll the length of each cucumber until it splits. This allows the dressing to absorb into the core of the cucumber quickly. Cut them lengthwise and then into 1-inch diagonal slices.
Put the cucumber slices into a bowl, add a large pinch of salt and the sugar, mix well, and set aside for 10 minutes.
While the cucumbers are marinating, make the dressing. In a small bowl, mix the black vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, garlic, and chili oil, if using.
Drain any liquid from the cucumbers that accumulated during salting. Add the dressing and mix well.
Toss with the cilantro and serve immediately.