Sexy Wavy Japanese Sesame Cucumbers

Wavy sesame cucumbers

I am currently back in Switzerland for various reasons. I'm really not sure how long I'll be here, but in any case there's no denying that it is a very comfortable, if rather expensive, place to live. We are currently staying at a place a bit out of the city of Zürich itself, and I must say that I really missed going to my old haunts - Migros and Coop, both fabulous supermarkets; the food halls at the Globus and Jelmoli department stores; and above all, the little Asian grocery stores that used to be my regular weekly stops - Nishi's the Japanese store, Lian Hua the general Asian store, YumiHana the Korean store, and Aggarwal the South Asian store. (You can see all of them listed under Switzerland, Zürich on this page. I'm also pleasantly surprised to see the regular supermarkets, Migros and Coop (and others probably) stocking more Asiatische Lebensmittel (Asian ingredients) too. It's way easier to get the Asian ingredients I find so comforting than in Avignon.

A problem that I still have to deal with when trying to make anything Japanese here is that while I can get most of the flavoring ingredients, the fresh produce is another story. Take cucumbers for instance. Japanese cucumbers are picked when they are still small and thin, about 2cm (3/4 inch or so) in diameter at most, with thin skins and barely any seeds. But here, most cucumbers are much bigger, thicker and longer (uh) and are much longer too, with thicker, tougher skins.

A very pretty way of cutting cucumbers in Japan is called jabara giri (蛇腹切り), which means bellows cut or 'snake rib' cut. You basically make thin, diagonal cuts into one side of the cucumber about halfway through its thickness, turn the cucumber over and make the same cuts on the other side. When it's exposed to salt or soy sauce, the sliced parts expand and become twisty-wavy and are really pretty, even a bit sexy.

There are several videos that show this cutting technique, such as this one or this one. The problem is, they all require the cucumber to be quite thin and seedless - like typical Japanese cucumbers.

Here I tried cutting a whole European style cucumber that was about 12 inches (30 cm) long this way.


For the thin end area it works fine, but the thick mid section bits are too big and clumsy for my liking.Besides, the seed part is pretty watery, and I'd rather not have it in there.


So instead, I did what I usually do to big cucumbers - cut them in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds and surrounding area with a spoon. I then made thin, diagonal cuts into the cucumber half, almost all the way through but not quite. If I slip cut all the way down sometimes, it's ok because I will cut the cucumber into pieces later anyway.


Here are the halved cucumber pieces with the thin diagonal cuts. They aren't quite as pretty as the whole cucumber ones, but still pretty sexy. And the main purpose of the thin cuts, to allow flavors to penetrate the cucumber better, is still valid. (No, there is no innuendo in this article. None at all.)



I turned the pieces into a very simple cucumber salad or side dish. It is great with any Japanese meal or Asian style meal. Actually I have been making a big bowl of this once a week or so recently, and it always disappears within a couple of days.

Here's how they look before the sesame seeds go on top. Aren't they pretty? Since they're much easier to make than they seem, they're great for dinner-with-company too.


Wavy Japanese Sesame Cucumbers


Servings (or more)
Prep time
10 minutes
Cooking time
Total time
10 minutes


This is a really quick and simple cucumber recipe. Serve it as a side dish with any Japanese or other East Asian meal, or even as a salad. See the instructions for how to achieve the twisty, wavy look, even with large cucumbers.


large cucumbers (I used 12 inch / 30 cm long cucumbers. )
2 T
dark sesame oil
1 t
ra-yu chili oil (adjust amount to taste (I used 2 teaspoons))
1 t
dashi stock granules or vegetable stock powder
2 T
soy sauce (Use light soy sauce if possible for a nicer color)
1⁄4 t
salt (plus more if needed )
toasted whole sesame seeds ((optional))


If you have very fresh, prickly cucumbers, sprinkle them with a little salt and roll them around on your cutting board, pressing hard. This will remove the prickles. Rinse off the salt. Otherwise just give the cucumbers a wash in cold water.

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Following the directions above, make thin, diagonal cuts into the cucumber almost all the way through. Don't worry if you slip and cut all the way through sometimes, since you'll be cutting the cucumber into pieces anyway.

Once the diagonal cuts are done, cut the cucumber into bite sized pieces.

Put the cucumbers and all the other ingredients except for the sesame seeds into a large bowl. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour before serving. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds.

This keeps in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.


If you are a vegetarian and/or want a bit more nutritional value, try using nutritional yeast instead of the dashi or vegetable stock powder.

The cucumbers get saltier the longer they are in the refrigerator, so go easy on the salt and soy sauce when you make this. You can add a tiny bit of soy sauce when you serve it on the first day if needed.
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