Updated: Apr 26
To understand Korean dining, we need to understand "banchan"or those little side thingies in the center of the table. Banchan literally translates to sides, and in Korea there are 1000's of these dishes served, usually for free. These dishes are flavored from sweet, to mild and herbed to devastatingly spicy and vary from crisp vegetables to fried anchovies (my absolute favorite!).
Mealtime is always a family affair and the banchan serves to remind folks that sharing is a critical part of being in a family. Aslo the banchans serve as a palate cleanser between bites. They are not generally finished before dinner arrives, as we generally do here in the US, but "snacked" on throughout the meal.
This cucumber kimchi belongs to the kimchi family that also include other vegetables like cabbage, the most famous, daikon radish, bok choi, carrots, and Brussels sprouts for a modern twist on the classic.
A final point on commercial versus homemade kimchi. Kimchi is essentially fermented and preserved vegetables. This is a natural process that occurs over time, though this is a quick recipe. Most commercial kimchi is made by cooking the vegetables, this causes the vegetables to turn soggy. The commercial reason for this is of course speed and cost. A really good kimchi is allowed to marinate overnight or for even years in pots buried in the ground. These vegetables stay crisp and the the flavors of the vegetables are not lost.
The other important ingredient is the wonderfully spiced and flavored Korean pepper Gochugaru that is essential to all kimchi. More on this ingredient here.
This cucumber kimchi is bold and lightly marinated with strong notes from the sesame seeds and the gochugaru pepper. This is a perfect side for any Korean or other meal where you need a pop of spice and brightness. I occasionally use them in a burger, yeah, it is darned good!
This cookbook, one of three Korean cookbooks, is filled with an array of traditional recipes including soups, stews and of course many banchan. It opens up to me the world of Korean cuisine, one that I have so much to learn about.
For more recipes from this cookbook click here.
3 Persian or other cucumbers, about 1/2 lb, completely or partially peeled, and cut into fine half moon slices
Sea salt to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Gochugaru powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
2 generous teaspoons black sesame seeds, lightly toasted on a warm pan
Mix all the ingredients well and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring the bowl occasionally to mix the kimchi. I usually make it the night before so the kimchi has time to marinate and ferment. This kimchi will keep in the fridge for about a week, improving with flavor as the fermentation occurs, but in my experience, it never lasts that long!