Let’s take a lesson out of the Mary Poppins handbook, only instead of spoonful we’ll go with sprinkle and instead of medicine we’ll go with cucumbers.  A hint, and we mean a hint, of sugar in a salad or on bitter leafy greens will better balance the flavor for those young sensitive palates.  Sugar is only the enemy when it’s consumed at the American rate of 22 teaspoons a day, a rate I know we’re all working hard to reduce. But, the benefits of adding a scant amount of sweet to nutrient-rich foods, far outweighs any negative toll sugar can take on the body. Further, there are all sorts of sweetening options that are not refined sugar; some of our favorites at crunchtime are honey, agave syrup and maple syrup.  Which brings us to sunomono, the Japanese appetizer salad.

I don’t need to sing the praises of the Asian diet which has been well documented to show that those who practice the traditional Asian diet don’t suffer from chronic diseases like those on Western diets. The Asian diet is more heavily plant based, such is the case with our star recipe, sunomono a cucumber salad.

Sunomono is similar to sweet pickling without the cooking.  This salad can be traced back to China centuries ago, but it made its way to Japan where the Japanese enhanced and embraced it ever since, making it a common choice for an appetizer or salad serving.  ‘Su’ means vinegar and in this recipe it’s rice vinegar which is less acidic and milder than traditional vinegars such as balsamic or apple cider, which goes to reason why kids can miraculously adapt a taste to this vinegar and the salad hiding within.  Traditional sunomono recipes take longer to prepare with paper-thin sliced cucumbers that have been steeped in salt to extract the excess water and often dashi, a broth made from fish flakes and miso, is added to boost flavor.  For adventurous and authentic souls, I also offer some link love to sunomono purists who deserve all of our admiration.

I’ve taken the essence of sunomono and with respect and hopefully forgiveness, I offer a version that can be made within the time it has taken you to read this post and one that is pleasing to the demanding tastebuds of our little ones and some of our little ones’ parents.

Here are the basics: sliced cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, something sweet (sugar, sweetener, agave syrup, Purevia – a natural, zero calorie sweetner from the Stevia plant), soy sauce, water, salt.

Just a note about these ingredients that look exotic but are not. Rice vinegar is available at most larger grocery stores. I use the sugar-free rice vinegar because I don’t like to overwhelm the kid system with sugar crazy. Agave syrup, a natural sweetener, is also becoming available at most larger grocers, but Whole Foods will have it for certain. And, sesame seeds on the right are available right in the back of your spice rack, no doubt.

sunomono – the cucumber salad kids love

one large cucumber

2 T rice vinegar

1 T sugar or 1 packet sweetener, agave syrup

1/2 t salt

1/4 t soy sauce

1 T water

sesame seeds (optional)

Mix everything but the cucumbers to taste. Adjust to your liking and then pour over the cukes.

Cook’s Options:

For the adventurous, add: sliced radishes, sliced red onion, crabmeat, imitation crabmeat and/or seaweed strips.

For the fancy, use: hot house cucumbers or regular cucumbers-halved, seeds scooped out, or Persian cucumbers (shown). Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

recipe provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com

2 Comments

  1. Jacinda says Oct 23rd 2010 7:21 pm

    This is one of my favorite dishes! Can’t wait to try it at home.

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