An update since I first wrote this post — the recipe comes from Zen Kimchi, so check it out, and now back to the original post… I shouldn’t make that sushi experiment sound all bad. This spicy Korean cucumber dish was the highlight of the meal, but it didn’t come without a bit of trial-and-error as well. Whenever I go out for Korean food at my favorite place in Palisades Park, NJ, the spicy cucumber banchan is a highlight of the meal — spicy and sweet with a little bit of twang. I’d wanted to try making it at home, and I recently got my hands on a new Korean cookbook. The recipe was pretty much like making pickles, and it required several days of waiting time. I followed the recipe to the letter, and my cucumbers turned to total mush. Gross. Then I even tried making the recipe again, tweaking a few things I thought would improve it. Another mushy (and way too spicy and not sweet) disaster! Each batch took me days to make, but they all went into the trash.
My Korean girlfriend came to my rescue with a recipe she found, umm… I don’t know where she got it, but it’s called Oi Muchim in Korean. She even bought me these very small seedless cucumbers so I’d be motivated to try again. First you toss the cucumbers with sea salt (I had some authentic Korean stuff in the cupboard). Then you soak thinly sliced onions in water and rice vinegar in the refrigerator.
Finally you make this spicy mixture of garlic, chili powder, red pepper paste, corn syrup (or honey), rice vinegar, and sesame seeds and toss everything together. The best part is, no waiting. This was ready to eat about 30 minutes after I started, and we loved it. So the recipe actually worked, tasted great, and was easy too. I’ll try not to think about all those wasted cucumbers from the first two batches.