Din Tai Fung Style Chilled Cucumber Salad
My family and I are obsessed with Din Tai Fung, a famous Taiwanese restaurant in at Santa Clara outpost that we frequent. My husband is the only one of us who has been to Taiwan, which is partly how this obsession began. Once a restaurant opened in our area, we quickly became frequent visitors. For the record, their soup dumplings are out-of-this-world, probably the best I have ever had; and I have eaten a lot of soup dumplings over the years.
Din Tai Fun is often mobbed with guests. When we go, it’s often for breakfast, which requires us to get in line around 9:30 am to guarantee getting in on the first seating at 10 am. We ALWAYS make the first seating. But by 10 a.m., we are all starving–as we would never risk eating prior and, god forbid, not being hungry when the food arrives.
We undoubtedly go through many orders of soup dumplings so outrageously good (and meticulously made) that I would not dare try to replicate that recipe. But there are other tasty, simple dishes there that we love. Many things at Din Tai Fung are amazing, and not nearly as elaborate as their soup dumplings. We all eat their broccoli, and sautéed cabbage, and we normally have 2-3 orders (if not more) of the chilled cucumber salad. The cucumber salad is addictive, at least for my family as we all love cucumbers.
So this became a challenge/copycat recipe, similar to the Beef Wellington–but much less elaborate. What should not be lost is that sometimes the most simple dishes are the hardest to make. I think that the true test of a great chef is making a roast chicken, something most people simply overcook.
My family and I had a lot of cucumbers when I was developing this recipe. It is not an exacpt replica of the Din Tai Fung version because there are so many degrees of variance, but I think it is very, very close. And it is “close enough” according to my family. The two most important things to remember when making this are: (1) you have to use fresh small Persian cucumbers, and (2) you must marinate them for at least 4 hours. For those who don’t know Din Tai Fung, that’s ok. If you like cucumbers, I think you’ll like this.