Growing up, my parents were on a great adventure establishing a new life for themselves in a foreign land. They took challenges head on and raced into the future, gobbling up any opportunity that came their way. But one thing my mother missed dearly was food from the country that raised her.
So she brought food from her childhood to us, by growing the most beautiful (and hard to find) Korean vegetables right in our backyard.
We spent countless spring and summer days planting, tending, and harvesting that garden. And in between tips and instructions, my mother would share stories about her childhood.
When I went to visit my mother a week ago, we were doing the same thing — snapping off ripe fruit and vegetables, harvesting, and preparing our lunch. And the memories of my childhood, filled with stories from my mother, filled the air with the ripe scent of lush greens and vegetation.
I made a favorite of mine with some of the vegetables from my mother’s garden — fresh cucumber kimchi. I love eating this with spicy, salty food. It also pairs well with fried foods. The crisp, spicy cucumber will cut through the oil and refresh your palate.
From my mother’s garden to yours…
Korean Cucumber Kimchi
Brine + Cucumbers:
10 persian or kirby cucumbers (or any cucumber without a waxy skin)
2 tbsp of coarse sea salt (super cheap at asian markets)
8 c. of boiling water
1 bunch of chives, chopped in small pieces
1 carrot, grated (use a mandolin or buy grated carrots to save time)
3 tbsp Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru — found in any asian market or on amazon)
2 tablespoon fish sauce (myulchi aekjeot)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 inch knob of garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
- Wash the cucumbers.
- Add coarse salt to the boiling water. This is your brine for the pickles.)
- Put cucumbers in a large bowl and fill with salted, boiling water. The water should cover all of the pickles. I cover the bowl with a plate or a lid that will hold the cucumbers down. But not a big deal if this isn’t perfect. Keep covered for 1 hour.
- While the cucumbers are hanging out in the brine, mix all of the ingredients for the kimchi filling together. Mix all of this well since it’s the magic sauce that will flavor the kimchi.
- After one hour, remove cucumbers and rinse off brine. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise, and then in half again (lengthwise).
- Combine the kimchi filling with the brined cucumbers and mix well. (I use disposable gloves to really massage the filling with the cucumbers. The gloves help protect your skin from the chili flakes.)
- Put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill over night. And then enjoy as a crisp, spicy side dish. Perfect for balancing fried foods, hot soups, or a simple stir fry.
Bon Apetit! 🙂