Cucumbers appear in many Thai recipes, and on the sides of many other dishes. The reason, in part, is due to the cucumber's admirable ability to sooth the sting of hot chillies. As every Thai knows, if you get a bit too much chili on your tongue, nothing will take away the heat faster than a slice of cucumber, although I should probably note that alcohol is also a well known 'cure'.

Two kinds of cucumbers on sale in a Thai market.

At least two types of cucumbers are typically found in Thai markets. The only real difference is size. The most commonly called for is a smaller variety that in the west might best be called a gherkin and used for pickling. It's called taeng gwah, while a larger but otherwise similar looking variety is called taeng rahn. Both varieties can be used whenever cucumbers are called for in Thai recipes. When the smaller taeng gwah is listed, you will need to adjust the amount if using a larger cucumber.

Cucumbers actually come in an amazing variety, especially in tropical climates like Thailand where there are many wild varieties to mix with. The cucumber is part of a large family of plants that also includes squash, melons and pumpkins. You will often find the entire 'family' at stalls in the market.

We came across just such an array while traveling through the mountain-side farms where much of Chiang Mai's produce is grown. The hill tribe Meo farmers had set up road-side stall to sell some of their vegetables directly to passers by. A truckload of rag-tag performers from some village's cultural show was also stopped at the stall, which was mainly tended by an aged woman who nonetheless had a baby strapped to her back. The old lady's face was deeply lined from years in the sun. On sale was an amazing variety of cucumbers, gourds and squashes, as well as some steamed corn and long beans. We bought some of the corn, which was sweet and easily separated from the cob.

Cucumbers appear to have originated in India about 3,000 years ago. From there, they spread through the ancient trade routes, and probably appeared in Europe around Greek or Roman times.

Cucumbers are highly nutritious, although most of the food value is in the skin. The mix of nutrients makes it useful in treating and preventing many gastric problems. Sliced or grated cucumbers have long been used as a skin and beauty treatment.

Weight Information
1 cup, pared, chopped 133.0 g
1 cup, sliced 119.0 g
1 large (8-1/4" long) 280.0 g
1 medium 201.0 g
1 slice 7.0 g
1 small (6-3/8" long) 158.0 g
1 stick (4" long) 9.0 g
Nutritional Information for 1 cup, pared, chopped
Energy 15.96
Protein 0.7847 20.000 4%
Total lipid (fat) 0.2128 65.000 0%
Carbohydrate, by difference 2.8728 300.000 1%
Fiber, total dietary 0.931 25.000 4%
Calcium, Ca 18.62 1000.000 2%
Iron, Fe 0.2926 18.000 2%
Magnesium, Mg 15.96 400.000 4%
Phosphorus, P 27.93 1000.000 3%
Potassium, K 180.88 3500.000 5%
Sodium, Na 2.66 2400.000 0%
Zinc, Zn 0.2261 15.000 2%
Copper, Cu 0.09443 2.000 5%
Manganese, Mn 0.09709 2.000 5%
Selenium, Se 0.133 70.000 0%
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 4.256 60.000 7%
Thiamin 0.04123 1.500 3%
Riboflavin 0.03325 1.700 2%
Niacin 0.04921 20.000 0%
Pantothenic acid 0.3192 10.000 3%
Vitamin B-6 0.06783 2.000 3%
Folate, total 18.62 400.000 5%
Folate, food 18.62 400.000 5%
Carotene, beta 41.23
Carotene, alpha 10.64
Vitamin A, IU 95.76 5000.000 2%
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.0399
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 9.576 80.000 12%
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.01729 20.000 0%
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.00266
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.00399