Kimchee is the spicy pickle served with almost every Korean meal. It's usually made with fermented cabbage or turnip, and stored in a tightly sealed jar, it lasts forever. My cucumber version is equally spicy and has the added flavor of fresh ginger. The traditional method involves burying the kimchee to ferment it. You won't have to dig up the kitchen, however, as I use vinegar to do the same job. I call for the traditional Korean chile, kucho karu,to make this, but you can just as effectively substitute regular red pepper flakes (and feel free to adjust the amount). Also, be very careful about putting unprotected fingers into the mixture, as you can too easily rub your eyes with them-not a good thing. Instead, use clean tongs or chopsticks to serve or transfer the kimchee.
Makes 6 cups
Lasts 2 weeks, refrigerated
6 medium cucumbers, halved lengthwise, and seeded
6 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups sugar
10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh ginger matchsticks (see Ming's Tip, left)
3 medium red onions, halved and cut into 18-inch slices
1 cup shredded carrots
4 tablespoons Korean chile flakes (kucho karu), or 2 tablespoons red pepperflakes
1/2 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
- Place the cucumbers in a colander set in the sink. Sprinkle the cut side of the cucumbers generously with the salt. Allow to rest at room temperature until the cucumbers have exuded liquid, about 2 hours. Rinse the cucumbers, dry them well, and slice them into 1/4-inch-thick half moons. Set aside.
- In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and onions, bring to a simmer, and remove immediately from the heat.
- In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine the cucumbers and carrots. Pour the vinegar mixture over them, add the chile flakes and fish sauce, and toss well.
- Correct the seasoning with salt. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and cover with plastic wrap. With a paring knife, punch a few holes in the plastic wrap and place the bowl in a cool, dark place. Let the mixture pickle for 24 hours. Transfer the kimchee to a tall glass jar or jars and seal tightly. Use or refrigerate.