Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated salad

Cucumbers are a perennial staple for me. They are available at any time of the year, even in the depth of winter. Sure they are greenhouse grown, but they are for most of the year anyway. They add a nice refreshing crispy crunch to any meal, including bentos. This is an extremely easy to make-ahead salad or marinade. Make it at least an hour before you want to eat it, or the night before for bentos. It will stay nice and crunchy for a week if you keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator, and the flavors will mellow nicely. This kind of marinated salad or instant pickle is called an amasu-zuke (sweet vinegar marinade). I have added a nashi or Asian pear to the cucumbers - their sweetness allows me to reduce the amount of sugar normally used to half, and the crispy texture is really nice with the cucumber.


Recipe: Cucumber and nashi (Asian pear) marinated salad

Makes about 8 cups of salad, plenty for several bentos and meals.

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1 medium to large nashi or Asian pear
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon light (usukuchi) soy sauce (see soy sauce basics) - or use any soy sauce you have instead. Use a gluten-free soy sauce if you are concerned about gluten intake.
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar or mild apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or equivalent sugar substitute
  • 1/3 teaspoon dried hot red chili pepper flakes, or to taste (or use ichimi togarashi instead)

Slice the cucumbers in half lenghwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the halves again into half, so you end up with quarters. Cut up the cucumber into chunks about 3/4 cm / 1/2 inch thick (no need to be too precise here; just chop away roughly).

Peel, quarter and core the nashi pear. Slice fairly thinly.

Combine the cucumber and pear in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the rest of the salt, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and chili pepper flakes. Stir well but don’t worry if the sugar and salt don’t melt totally - they will melt once you mix this with the vegetables. Put the combined sauce in the large bowl with the cucumber and pear, scraping out any unmelted sugar and salt. Mix very well. Cover, and let rest for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator. It will keep tightly covered for a week.

If using in a bento, you may want to put it in a leakproof container if you add some of the marinating sauce. This goes well with a Japanese-style or not-so-Japanese style bento.


Try using a crispy apple like Fuji instead of the nashi pear.

You can make a cucumber-only salad too, in which case increase the sugar to 2 tablespoons.

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Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Just this morning I was thinking about an apple/cucumber salad of some sort. A remembered the cucumber salad you posted some time back (which I really like) and was thinking of adding a granny smith apple in with that. Thanks for posting this one as I think it will be added in to my lunch fillers frequently

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

sounds very refreshing and nice going to try this with regular euro pear , no nashi pears near me

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

I'm not sure a western pear would work has a very different texture from Asian pears. I would suggest going with a crispy apple instead. But who knows, you may like the western pear combo anyway!

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Nashi pears are very crisp. I think apples are a better substitute the western pears. (If you are down under, you can also use ya pears. Both nashi and ya can be found in normal supermarkets).

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

This looks wonderful-- I'll definitely have to try it! From all the other recipes I've tried from your site, Maki, I've not been disappointed yet!

I just was able to purchase your book. It shipped today, and I am beyond excited. I was hoping to join the forums, but I understand registration is closed due to needing to fix up some back-end coding for the forum. If you need any assistance at all, please let me know. My "Guy" works with that type of thing daily, and as he's the one who got me started in bento and hears me talk tons about this awesome site of yours, he wanted to offer his assistance in the event you need any to fix this up! A main part of what he does is ensuring site security as well, so he's pretty tops.

All the best, and I'll be trying this recipe tomorrow!


Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Mm, my mum just fixed this for me on Sunday! ^^ We always like to add a bit of ginger or sambal to it - but I'm so happy that you always have vegetarian/vegan recipes! ^^

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Sounds good! I like the idea of using fruit to cut down on the amount of sugar in a recipe. Even though fruit has sugar of its own, it comes with fiber, which makes it healthier. I had bought cucumbers to use for "instant pickle" - maybe I'll switch it up to this and use one of my leftover apples.

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Thank you so much for this recipe. It was delicious. Since I had some left over, I made a meal by adding it to some salad greens for a lunch one day. It was super easy to make, and I had most of the ingredients on hand. Thanks again. :)

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

I just whipped up a halved version of this using Fuji apples instead. It's sitting in my fridge... I hope it tastes as great as it looks!

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Great, just what I needed for lunches this week. :) Can't wait for tomorrow.

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

It's rare to get in good Asian pears where I live (I've seen a couple crop up here and there but they aren't sweet, so I suspect they were picked way too early in order to survive shipping but have zero flavor). However, if your readers have a good produce section, have them look for something called a Bosc pear. The sweetness and crunch are very similar to Asian pears. I choose the firmest ones and have used them successfully in Nang-myun without my rather finicky Korean mom even noticing the difference. Wiki says in Europe they are known as Kaiser pears.

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Great site....great recipe.

Just wondering is this able to be frozen?

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

No it can't. Freezing cucumber or nashi pear does not go well at all.

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Thanks maki.

Just had quinoa for the first time ever, after seeing a recipe on your site - absolutely loved it. Have also packed my 2 new bentos for the first time. Your site is very inspirational. Congratulations, for keeping so many people so enlightetened!

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

I'm glad the site has inspired you ^_^ BTW, I usually say in a recipe if it's freezer friendly or not, so you can check that when you are browsing around.

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

Tried making it this morning and the dish tasted great! thanks for the recipe!

Reminds me of Korean Kimchi

I'm a huge fan of cucumbers in the summer. A little dash of crushed red pepper and salt is how my mom used to make them. I love reading different ways of making cucumber salad. This recipe reminds me a little of Momofuku's cucumber kim chi (delicious). Thanks for sharing!

Re: Reminds me of Korean Kimchi

It doesn't take much like kimchi though, since it's not fermented.

Re: Bento filler: Cucumber and Nashi (Asian pear) marinated ...

I made this recipe last week (I only had regular pears so I used those instead), and it was amazing! I always used to make a similar recipe my mom taught me with cucumbers, dried seaweed, shoyu, and vinegar, but decided to try this one because the combination of sweetness and texture of the pear, the salty/sour/umami from shoyu and vinegar, and the spice from the red pepper sounded neat. I used a ton of red pepper flakes since I am a spicy junkie though, it turned out great! :)

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