Recipe: Cucumber kimchi a tasty variation on traditional Korean favorite

Posted by James Sechrengost on 06/25, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Recipe: Cucumber kimchi a tasty variation on traditional Korean favorite

Image via Creative Commons courtesy Flickr user Dorota

When I was stationed in Southern California I became interested in martial arts. In my quest for a good teacher I met a man named Pu Gill Gwon. Now to look at him you would not be impressed. He was barely over 5 feet tall and maybe 110-120 lbs. soaking wet.

But there was something about him though that grabbed my attention. A calm self-assuredness that seemed to express itself in everything he did. I got to know him and the more I knew the more impressed I became. I never became a student I became something better. I became his friend.

Now, I was not long out of the back woods of Somerset County here in PA. So one day he invited me for dinner, and I accepted. He had a lovely home and even lovelier daughters. They were his pride and joy. Now one of his daughters decided to see if they could pull one over on me.

She asked had I ever had kimchi. I had not nor had I heard of it. She shyly said that I probably wouldn’t like it as it was spicy. Now I had my introduction to hot things by one of the guys in my unit giving me a slice of pizza with jalapenos on it. After I got done sweating I said to myself ‘you know what, hey, I liked the flavor.’

So I had been building up my tolerance for hot foods and was not going to look weak in front of this lovely lady and her father. So I asked to try some. She asked if I wanted the mild or the hot. Being the macho man that I was I said HOT of course. She handed me a small plate with something that looked like cabbage that was angry.

That should have been my first clue. When I lifted it to take a bite the odor hit my nose and suddenly my sinuses were clear. That should have been my second clue. She smiled at me sweetly and batted her eyes urging me to taste it.

That should have been my final warning. Unfortunately, being the macho man I was I ignored all the warnings and placed a big piece of it in my mouth and started chewing. A few seconds later I swear my eyeballs were sweating. I could feel the sweat forming in my hairline.

His daughter started chuckling and the redder I got the more she was giggling. Soon the whole family was staring at me. Now Pu Gill came in and said something to his daughter in Korean and she answered. He looked at me standing there praying to die and started laughing.

It would appear that she had given me some of his special Kimchi that he had developed a tolerance for and no one else would touch. I swallowed and grinned at him and gasped out “Good Stuff, can I die now?” He laughed and everyone got a chuckle. He sent me home with a jar of the “mild” stuff and he told me to try it when I could feel my tongue again.

A few days later I did and was hooked. It reminded me of my heritage’s sauerkraut but with some bite. Next time I saw him I told him I really like the Kimchi he had given me. He had his wife give me the recipe and I make it on occasion.

I tweaked and changed the recipe over the years as Napa cabbage wasn’t always easy to come by. I found if I used cucumbers it made a nice side dish and provided some nice cleansing spice to the palette. This is my version of the mild kimchi using cucumbers. I hope you enjoy.

Cucumber Kimchi Ingredients

24 small cucumbers

1 Cup coarse sea salt

2 Cups garlic chives chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

10 cups Water

1 cup green onions, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

Kimchi Sauce ingredients:

1 Cup red pepper powder (You can find this in most Korean markets or ethnic food sections of your supermarket. It is called Goshugaru.)

6 Tbs. fish sauce/salt

6 Tbs. water

2 Tbs. sugar/1 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. minced garlic

2 Tsp. minced ginger



1. Cut top and bottom off cucumbers. Cut crosswise into the cucumbers all the way from one end till about 1/2-inch from the bottom. Place cucumbers in large heat proof container.

2. In a pan boil 10 cups of water with 1 cup of coarse sea salt. Pour the boiling water on top of the cucumbers and soak for about 50 minutes. Then rinse them in cold water, once and place them back into container.

3. In a bowl mix all the ingredients for the kimchi sauce. Add the garlic chives and green onions to the sauce and mix well.

4. For this step you will want to wear food grade gloves and DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING. Spread open the cut cucumber gently with one hand, or, have someone do it for you if you can find an assistant. Put some of the sauce mixture into the cross cut and rub the surface of the cucumber with the sauce.

5. Put the cucumbers in a glass container and set them aside at room temperature overnight and then refrigerate. I use largemouth canning cars and leave them open overnight and then put the lid on and put them in the refrigerator. Any glass container will do that you can seal. Be warned; don’t use plastic. It will stain it and the odor never quite goes away no matter how many times you wash it.


Tags: recipe | Korean | cucumbers |

{name} Author: James Sechrengost

Bio: Computer Guru | World Traveler and Foodie Extraordinaire | Member of the Been there Done that Club


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