Over at eG Forums we have a few discussions going (1) (2) pertaining as to why Korean Food has not become “mainstream” in the United States. I’ve offered up a couple of different theories, one of which is that Korean food is so incredibly in-your-face bold and assertive and incorporates certain flavors and combinations in such an intensity that many Americans might find off-putting — that being the fact that so much of Korean food is fermented or pickled, and that they use massive amounts of chile and garlic.
Be it as it may, I’m a huge fan (1) of Korean food (2). I’ve been told by other Koreans that I am practically an honorary Korean, because I have such a high tolerance for spicy and garlicky, and I actually LIKE to eat Kimchi.
Kimchi can be a challenge for those that aren’t used to it. The heavy garlic and red chile spice combined with a very long fermentation (some Kimchis are fermented for MONTHS) can practically melt the chrome off a Harley Davidson exhaust manifold and so will your breath after eating it afterwards. But there are some Kimchis that aren’t fermented very long and are much closer in fermentation to a “new ” Kosher pickle, although they maintain the heavy garlic and chile profile. One of these is Oi Kimchi, or cucumber Kimchi. It’s one of my favorites. And if you have a huge bumper crop of cucumbers in your garden, its a great thing to do with them besides making Kosher Dills or the endless tomato cucumber salads.
Today, I actually tried making Oi Kimchi for the first time. I went to my local H-Mart to pick up the necessary ingredients.
Koreans use so much garlic that they buy it pre-peeled in huge quantities. Each of these containers represents about one meal’s worth for the average Korean family. No I’m not joking — a week supply is like a half a gallon, and they sell those too. One container will be sufficient for our purposes.
Get a bunch of fresh scallions.
Find a nice hand of ginger.
Here’s where we get into the specialty ingredients. This big sucker is a Moo (pronounced Moo, like what the cow does) or a giant Korean radish. It has a texture and flavor similar to a French-style pink radish, somewhat spicier than a Daikon. If you can’t find one of these, Daikon will do, and you can grate up some regular pink radishes into the mix for flavor.
Kimchi chile flakes. Get the medium coarseness one. All the brands are basically the same.
Brine shrimp, which is optional. It adds that extra something. You can also get some shucked oysters too, which is also commonly used in Kimchi recipes. This stuff is very salty and if you do use it, I’d cut the salt from the recipe in half.
Your Kimchi Mise-en-place:
- 2 lb UNWAXED Cucumbers or Kirbys for pickling. Mine came from my garden.
- 1 Korean Mul Radish or 1 Daikon and 4 or 5 pink radishes
- 1 Bunch Green Onions, cut into 1/2 inch strips
- 4Tbsp Garlic — minced
- 1Tbsp Ginger — fresh, minced
- 2Tbsp-4Tbsp Kimchi chile
- 1.5Tbsp Salt (use only 1Tbsp if you got the brine shrimp)
- 1Tbsp Sugar
- 1Tsp of Brine Shrimp, thoroughly mashed
You will also need a large container such as several quart size deli containers or a 1 or 1/2 gallon plastic tub or big Tupperware container.
After washing I cut off the ends of the cucumbers (it’s bitter) and sliced them lengthwise and then into 2 inch long half-barrels.
I cut up the radish into 3 peices and cut off the outside skin with a chef’s knife.
I grated one of the big radish pieces and got about 8oz of radish plus radish water.
I put the grated radish into a clean dishrag (a cheesecloth would be optimal) and wrung the radish water into my large container along with the reserved radish water from the bowl. This should yeild about 1 cup of radish juice total.
Next I took 1 Teaspoon of brine shrimp and ground them into a paste in the mortar and pestle.
I put the cucumber slices into the container (with the radish juices) along with the grated radish, cut up scallions, cubed up radish from another big piece (rest was put in the fridge in water for a snack), brine shrimp paste, 4tbsp of garlic, 1tbsp of grated fresh ginger, 1Tbsp of salt (or 1.5Tbsp if without the brine shrimp), 1Tbsp of sugar, and 2-4Tbsp of Kimchi Chile flakes depending on how hot you like it. Mix up well, and then add approximately 2 cups of water until everything becomes covered.
Let stand at room temperature (72 degrees) for 48 hours with lid or plastic wrap covering, then transfer to deli containers or smaller Tupperware in the fridge. Give to friends. Share and eat.
Oi Kimchi is great as a side dish to Bulgogi or Korean Short Ribs (Kalbi) with short grain rice.