A few years ago, Anthony Bourdain starred in a No Reservations episode about South Korea. In it, he visited a tiny town in the countryside of Seoul known for making kimchi the traditional way — by hand, tucked into giant clay jars, buried in the earth to ferment. Little old ladies slathered layer upon layer of cabbage leaves with bright red paste and raw oysters…*drool.*
Since then, I often daydream of visiting the last of my ancestral homelands to pay homage to their rustic kimchi factory… ah, someday!
When I’m craving the stinky red stuff, I head to First Korean Market near my house. Their kimchi selection is tops in SF (cabbage, turnip, cucumber), and they have it readily available fresh in the banchan bar or jarred in many sizes. I especially love their crisp cucumber variety — heavy on the garlic and even heavier on fermented fish flavor.
Last week, I was too lazy to walk over to the market and I decided to make my own fresh cucumber kimchi (non-fermented, crunchy, spicy and garlic-y). In Hawaii, you can buy this kind of kimchi at the grocery store — here in Cali, the Koreans only make fresh cucumber pickles that are mild, sweet and mixed with sesame seeds.
quick cucumber kimchi
this will give you crazy korean breath, so beware
* 2 Japanese cucumbers
* Kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon coarse-ground Korean red pepper (I used 2 crushed/seeded bird’s eye chilies)
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1 teaspoon peeled, grated ginger
* 2 tablespoons sliced green onion
Wash unpeeled cucumber, cut off ends and cut into bite-sized pieces.
In a nonreactive bowl, layer the pieces with a generous sprinkling of salt between each layer. Toss and stir to distribute salt. Allow to sit for 25 minutes, then rinse off a piece and taste. If too salty, wash cucumber in cold water and proceed. If not salty enough, allow to marinate longer (I did 45 minutes). When the flavor is right, rinse in cold water.
In a bowl, stir together Korean red pepper, sugar, garlic, ginger and green onion. Add cucumber, toss well. It will lose crispness after 24 hours, so I’d advise you to eat it right away. Store in the fridge.