Kimchi reigns supreme in Korean cuisine. You’ve heard me wax poetic about it before. It’s a powerhouse of health, brightens any meal and is zesty and delicious to boot. However sometimes, you just don’t have time to properly ferment the classic stuff. This is when cucumber kimchi comes in. It takes all of 15 minutes from start to finish and still mimics the flavor without all the elbow grease. Of course, I still urge you to get on the fermented band wagon with kimchi leading the way, but if you’re pressed for time, you can’t ask for more in kimchi than this cucumber one.
Growing up, we pretty much always had this with every meal and if cucumber wasn’t in season, my mother would whip up the same dish with celery, romaine, greens or really anything else that was around. The bright and vibrant nature of this kimchi really accents a heavy dish or bubbling stew but my husband can be found just munching on it by itself. It’s subtly sweeter than regular kimchi and has a satisfying crunch factor. The heat is mild though if it bothers you, you can certainly halve it. My mother would sometimes add in fish sauce or rice vinegar. Those are both optional as well. This kind of kimchi salad is best served fresh.
As for the main ingredients, you can certainly make this with any cucumber you’d like though, if the skin on yours is rather thick, you can peel off some of it so it doesn’t interfere with the overall texture of the kimchi. I prefer the seedless kind, also known as hot house, green house or english cucumber. My mother was partial to the kirby variety. I often get asked if crushed red peppers is a good substitute for Korean red pepper flakes. The Korean peppers aren’t so crazy hot. They’re often seedless, sundried and a bit sweeter so the crushed red peppers that you sprinkle on your pizza doesn’t make a good substitute. You can find it at most asian markets or online as well. I highly recommend snagging a bag if you’re interesting in Korean cooking as it’s a primary ingredient for most dishes.
- 1 seedless cucumber
- ¼ red onion
- ½ tb kosher salt
- ½ tb Korean red pepper flakes
- ½ tb freshly minced garlic
- 1 ts freshly grated ginger
- 2 ts sugar
- Toasted sesame seed garnish
- Optional: 2 ts fish sauce or rice vinegar
- Chop the cucumber and red onion. Make sure the red onion is thinner than the cucumber.
- Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Wash and drain well.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat, making sure to not press too hard.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
- Chill. Keeps for 3-5 days.