Cucumber Salad with Hot Spiced Mustard Dressing

This fresh salad, a cousin of Nepali Green Bean—Sesame Salad (page 76), has a semi-cooked dressing: The cucumber sticks are rubbed with a spice paste of yogurt, sesame, and cumin, then dressed with hot spice-infused mustard oil and fresh lemon juice.

As with many dishes from Nepal, traditionally a flavoring called timbur seed is used to give a tart edge, but it’s not yet available in North America. We have tried substituting ground anardana (dried pomegranate seeds; see Glossary), but we find the easiest solution is to use a little yogurt and lemon in the spice paste, as described below.


  • ½ pound cucumbers, preferably a small English cucumber, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons plain (full- or reduced-fat) yogurt or water (see headnote)
  • 1½ teaspoons mustard oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ⅛ teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1 green cayenne chile, slit lengthwise and seeded
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced coriander leaves


  1. Cut the cucumber lengthwise in quarters.
  2. Slice off the seeds (unless the cucumbers are very small and tender) and discard, then cut into 1½-inch lengths.
  3. Cut lengthwise in half again if the pieces are fat.
  4. Place in a colander, sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and set over a bowl or in the sink to drain for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, dry roast the sesame seeds until golden.
  6. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  7. Dry roast the cumin seeds until touched with color and aromatic, then transfer to a spice/coffee grinder, add the sesame seeds, and grind to a powder.
  8. Place in a small bowl and stir in the yogurt or water to make a paste. Set aside.
  9. Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly with cold water.
  10. Squeeze them gently to squeeze out excess water and place them in a bowl. Add the spice paste and rub the cucumbers all over to coat them. Set aside.
  11. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat.
  12. Add the fenugreek, nigella, and chile and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally, until the spices are aromatic.
  13. Add the cayenne and turmeric, stir, and pour the flavored oil over the cucumbers; toss gently.
  14. Add the lemon juice and toss, then set aside for 10 to 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  15. Just before serving, add the coriander leaves and ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste, and toss gently to mix.


The warming flavors in this cucumber salad pair well with mild-tasting dishes such as New Potatoes with Fresh Greens (page 154) or Chickpea Pulao (page 105) or with a simple meal of Chapatis (page 110) or Gita’s Luchis (page 115) and Mountain Dal (page 182) or Easy Karnataka Chana (page 196).


Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


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Cucumber Salad with Hot Spiced Mustard Dressing