A cool, crunchy Japanese cucumber salad is the perfect topping to a rich, glazed chicken teriyaki taco.
By Kathleen Kiebler
I don’t know what it is about chicken teriyaki – it’s such a simple dish to prepare, but so often I’m served bland, overcooked strips of chicken in a thin teriyaki sauce. The madness must stop! So I thought I would create a just the way I like it.
Rather than marinating the chicken, I find it’s more efficient and flavorful to create a rich, thick glaze to go over the cooked chicken. And the best part is, the chicken and the sauce is made all in the same pan!
So let’s talk a little bit about the cucumber salad. It’s the perfect tangy compliment to the rich and savory chicken teriyaki. This particular Japanese Cucumber Salad is a recipe adapted from my grandmother and a dish that I’ve enjoyed eating since I was a kid.
Cucumbers are mostly made up of water, which we’ll want to remove by salting. When we salt vegetables, we’re drawing out the moisture through the process of osmosis. We do this for several reasons; we want to remove the excess moisture so it does not dilute the sauce or dressing, causing the veggies to swim in a pool of flavorless liquid. Likewise, it changes the texture of the vegetable – making it more pliable and less crisp.
- Find the link to the recipe above.
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 - 6 corn tortillas
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 3 tablespoons Sriracha
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced into strips
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, optional - but it sure looks pretty
- Vertically score the sides of the cucumber with a fork (you don't have to do this, but this is how my grandma prepared them). Then very thinly slice and transfer the slices to a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with salt, tossing the cucumber slices to coat (this will draw out the moisture). Allow to sit for 20 minutes.
- Rinse the cucumbers well under cold water, making sure to remove all of the excess salt. Allow to drain in the colander while you work on the vinegar mixture.
- In a medium bowl, add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Stir well to combine.
- Add the cucumber slices to the vinegar mixture and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Gently toss and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
- Combine all of the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
- To make the chicken, pat the thighs dry with a clean paper towel. Prick the skin all over with a fork. Warm the vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, place the chicken skin side down into the pan. Cook until the fat has rendered and the skin is golden-brown, about 12 minutes.
- Flip the chicken and cook 7 minutes. Add the teriyaki sauce and bring the temperature down to medium. Cook for 2 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken and then turn off the heat.
- Remove the chicken, cover, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice the chicken into strips (I found that if you cut them skin side down, the skin stays on the chicken better). Pour the teriyaki sauce over the chicken and toss to coat.
- In large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the tortillas one at a time until crisp and slightly charred around the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Wrap in a tea towel to keep warm.
- While the tortillas are toasting, combine the sour cream and Sriracha in a small bowl.
- To assemble the tacos, layer few slices of teriyaki chicken, drizzle the Sriracha-sour cream on top, add some of the cucumber salad using a slotted spoon, scallions, and sprinkle some black sesame seeds. Serve and enjoy!
**If you can't find Japanese or Persian cucumbers, you can substitute 1 large English cucumber. It will need to be seeded and cut into half-moons.