It feels like spring is here in Philly. All that fall bulb-planting I did in my container garden is starting to pay off as those beautiful colors come in to full bloom and fill me with energy and joy.
I don’t think it’s any secret that despite my conspicuous lack of Korean-ness, I am extremely obsessed with kimchi. You other kimchi fans will know that what we typically refer to as kimchi is just one of dozens of traditional kimchis and likely thousands of kimchis made in Korean homes and kimchi markets. There is a traditional summer kimchi that I adore, and when this warm weather starts to roll in I start to crave it. Technically speaking, it’s too early for this kimchi. It’s a summer kimchi and I personally have nothing resembling a cucumber growing in my city garden yet. Nonetheless, the glowing sunshine prodded me and I gave in and bought some hothouse English cukes for the chance to satisfy my craving for a first taste of summer.
This kimchi can get as hot as you want to make it with the addition of more gochugaru in the paste or fresh hot peppers mixed in to the onion puree. My recipe was inspired by this YouTube video and from the Oi Sobagi recipe in The Kimchi Cookbook by Lauryn Chun and Olga Massov.
I highly recommend serving this kimchi as a first course at a dinner party. It is SIMPLE to make and the presentation of the finished product is impressive. If your cukes get too floppy, you can tie a chive around them for some extra Martha points. It’s worth noting that my preparation isn’t the most traditional. Generally you would not put rice gruel on this type of kimchi, but I’ve found it ferments better and stays prettier that way than with brine. And of course, even though some don’t ferment cucumber kimchi, I don’t see the point in not fermenting anything that could be made tastier and healthier through fermentation.
This is one of three kimchis that will be served at an awesome event at the Philadelphia Science Festival: Fun With Fermentation: Kimcheese. If you don’t know the work of the amazing Madame Fromage (aka Tenaya Darlington), you are missing out! She writes beautifully and takes amazing photos of what is undoubtedly the best ferment in the West: cheese! She and I worked with the mongers (what up, Rocco?) at DiBruno Bros. to find the perfect pairings of a few of my homemade kimchis and a selection of addictive cheeses from DiBruno Bros. I’m not saying that every ferment pairs perfectly with every other ferment, but believe me when I say these do. Or better yet, don’t take my word for it. Come taste with us and chat about what binds these two foods together (hint: it’s fermentation) on April 25 at 6pm. Tickets are available here. This is bound to be a fun and uniquely delicious event and I hope to see you there!What’s up, doc? Oh nothing, just delicious, homemade probiotics.
Fermented Oi Sobaegi
Makes 5, medium-low spice appetizer-sized portions
1 long, thin-skinned cucumber (English works great)
2 T salt, or more
1/2 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper), divided
1 bunch scallions
1 large carrot, cut into long, thin strips
3 cloves garlic
1 c water
2 T rice flour
1 t salt
- Chop cucumbers horizontally into 3-4 inch sections
- Slice each section vertically, nearly into quarters, but leave it attached at the bottom (about 3/4 of the way down works great)
- Place colander over a large bowl
- Salt cucumbers generously, rubbing salt over all cut surfaces, being careful not to break them apart
- Place cucumbers in colander, cut end down, and allow them to drain into the bowl (reserve drained liquid), until soft, about 45 minutes
- While cucumbers are draining make the paste and the stuffing
- Place water and rice flour into a pot, stirring constantly over medium low heat until thickened, 3-4 minutes
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature
- Combine coarsely chopped scallions place them in the food processor with the garlic to make a fine, slightly wet mixture
- When cucumbers have softened and released some water, give them a good (but careful) squeeze (over the colander) and a very quick rinse to remove excess salt. Towel them dry
- Pour any cucumber liquid from your bowl into rice paste and stir to combine. Stir in salt and 1/4 c gochugaru
- Place onion mince into a bowl and mix in gochugaru using your hands or a large spoon. Once it’s well-combined mix in carrots
- Take carrot mixture rub it over all surfaces of the cuke. Stuff some in, and reform cucumber as much as possible.
- Repeat with all cucumber pieces until the carrot-allium-pepper mixture is used up
- Place stuffed cukes in a container (shallow and flat-bottomed works best) and gently mix the rice paste into and over them. Pat it down gently and tap the container against a hard surface, allowing the paste to settle in as much as possible
- Cover with a fitted lid and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 days
- Because the fermentation period is so short, you don’t need to worry about mold, but you might want to give them a gentle surface mix after day one, just in case
- As the vegetables continue to release their juices, the paste with become more liquid. This is normal and good. Your cucumbers need to be submerged for fermentation to occur
- This should be eaten rather quickly (within 3 days or so), as the cukes will continue to soften and will eventually be mushy.