Tag Archives: pickles

tsukemono: fresh cucumber pickles

16 Mar

Contrary to popular belief, sushi in San Francisco is complete crap with the exception of two microscopic sushi joints in Japantown. Both seat only a dozen guests and require reservations, which are tricky to get when neither answer the phone — and when they do, they hardly speak English.

Kiss Seafood is my undisputed favorite for impeccably fresh fish, on-par with what I’m used to back home in Hawaii. Ino Sushi has a slightly lower quality of fish, but amazing traditional tsukemono dishes (fresh pickles). Happily, I will slurp up the entire bowl of cold, crunchy cucumber slices soaked in a savory vinegar brine. I treasure the delicate paper thin slices of baby cucumbers no wider than a nickel in diameter.

At home, I attempted my own bastardized version of traditional tsukemono using a seeded English cucumber, dried wakame, and instant dashi. J and I were pleasantly surprised by the spot-on result and ate all of the pickles in just one sitting!

ino-inspired cucumber tsukemono
to pickle your fancy

* 1 Japanese or English cucumber (peeled, seeded, and sliced very thin on a mandolin)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried wakame (reconstituted for 10 minutes in cold water)
* 1 teaspoon instant dashi (dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water)
* 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
* Bonito flakes (optional)

Combine liquid ingredients in non-reactive bowl. Add cucumbers and drained wakame. Marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Serve as a side dish topped with bonito flakes as a garnish.

Since these are fresh pickles, they must be served day-of or at the latest the next day, or they will get mushy.

quick cucumber kimchi

5 Oct

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.