You know us South Asians.  We can’t resist putting in a little flavor into everything – a little spice, a little heat.  This cool cucumber salad, can be made mild, or pack a wallop.  Its better for it to taste a little sweet, a little sour, a little hint of heat that just tickles the tongue, and a little soothing, creamy and cold. Its meant to be a counterpoint to the highly flavorful and often spicy other dishes in a Sri Lankan meal.


lime and onion

Or you can make it like my Uncle Stanley and put in enough green chilies to burn a hole in your mouth.  I remember once my Dad was eating Uncle Stanley’s curries, and they were all so spicy, that he decided to eat a huge bite of the cucumber salad, thinking it would cool his tongue, only to find that it was as hot as the rest of them!

PS – this post is an ode to the few visitors other than my family and close friends who have visited this site and the couple who have left comments.  I thank you, and this post (and other more frequent posts) are for youIMG_4020

Sri Lankan Cucumber Salad

4 kirby cucumbers, or 1 or 2 regular or hothouse cucumbers – enough for approximately 2-3 cups cut.

1 large shallot

1 lime

1 green chili (I used the tiny thin ones I find at my Indian grocery, but any chili that packs heat will do)

salt and pepper

1/4 cup coconut milk or 2 -3 tablespoons dried coconut powder

1/2 tsp of sugar

Thinly slice the cucumber.  Leave the skins on for added color and texture, or peel them beforehand, depending on your preference.  Thinly slice the shallots crosswise, in roughly the same size and thin-ness as the cucumber.   Mix together in bowl.  Add salt and pepper, toss to coat.

And I like to add the following ingredients a little at a time, tasting in between to get the flavor just right.  It is hard to get the measurements right, so you use mine as only a guide.  Its different each time, depending on the heat of the chili, the sweetness of the coconut, and the acidity of the lime.

Add the coconut milk to the bowl.  Its easy to use the dried coconut powder because the cucumber exudes so much water, that it combines and creates the coconut milk.  If you are using fresh coconut milk, allow the cucumber to stand for a while, and drain off some excess – this is a salad, not a soup – so make sure its not too wet.

Thinly slice some of your chili – here is the trick – only add as much as you need to get a hint of heat.  This is a delicate dish, and it should just have the chili as a background note.  So thinly slice and  add a little at a time, mixing it up and having a taste.  When you think you’ve got the heat right, add the juice of half the lime.  Has the heat level gone down too much? Add a little more chili?  Does it need salt?  Lastly the pinch of sugar just balances the whole thing – you won’t taste the sugar, but every flavor will be better rounded.

You should be able to taste all the different flavors and it should intrigue your palate, not overwhelm in any way.  Real Sri Lankans add umbalacuda (dried maldive fish), but we know how I feel about that.

Allow the salad to sit for approx 15 minutes before serving.  Any less and the flavors won’t have melded, but it will still be good.  Any more, and the cucumber gets progressively less crunchy, but it is still delicious.