Michael Black, an army brat, grew up eating his Okinawan mother's cooking in Japan, North Carolina and Germany. When he became a professional chef, he sometimes re-created those dishes with the help of a comprehensive book from the 1970s about Okinawan food, Ryukyu Ryori. Black's mother made this incredibly simple salad with only three ingredients: long, thin Japanese cucumbers, shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and bonito flakes (shavings of dried smoked bonito, a kind of tuna). Black's version, which he serves at San Francisco's cult Japanese restaurant Sebo, is topped with a lovely sesame-soy vinaigrette and scallions.
More Great Salads
1/4 cup shoyu (see Note) or soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 1/2 pounds Japanese cucumbers
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon bonito flakes (see Note)
How to Make It
In a bowl, combine the shoyu with the rice vinegar and sesame oil. Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of skin from the cucumbers. Halve the cucumbers lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch half moons. Add the cucumbers and scallions to the bowl, season with pepper and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the bonito flakes and serve.
Shoyu is less salty than Chinese soy sauce. Both shoyu and bonito flakes are available at Asian specialty-food stores.
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