Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

Cucumber Kimchi

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Can we talk about fish sauce for a minute?

It smells terrible, but it tastes delicious–so salty and funky with all of that wonderful umami flavor.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

When I was a vegetarian (before I slid into pescatarianism and then back to omnivorism), the only exception I made was for fish sauce. I didn’t eat anything made with chicken broth, but I couldn’t give up my Thai food, and fish sauce is pretty darn ubiquitous in that cuisine.

Mostly though, I just sort of willfully ignored the fact that I knew my pad kee mao with tofu (and extra basil) was made with a small amount of a product that contains fish.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

But for a long time, I didn’t cook with it. I was intimidated by the idea that it was a fermented fish product. I was intimidated by the vast array of fish sauce at the Vietnamese grocery stores in my neighborhood. There were so many strange labels and odd smells, and even though I knew that it was a component of many of my favorite dishes, I was unsure where to begin with it. For a while, I fell back on the vegetarian excuse. I bought a bottle of vegetarian fish sauce, which, for the record, is fine but tastes nothing like fish sauce.

Fish sauce is made from anchovies (there are some Japanese varieties that use other fish) and salt, which are layered together in barrels and fermented for several months. The anchovies break down and the resulting liquid is collected and sometimes mixed with some sugar to tame the potent flavor and bottled. I usually keep a bottle of good and affordable Squid brand fish sauce around. The pricier Red Boat is what I look for when I’m looking for a no-sugar variety.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

These days, I always have fish sauce around. It’s a pantry staple. And with all of the great things we’re hearing about probiotics, it seems wise to include fermented foods in our diets.

Which brings me to this cucumber kimchi. It comes from Andrew Zimmerman, the executive chef at Sepia, and it’s a great gateway to fermented foods. It’s a fresh kimchi that’s only fermented for a couple of days in the refrigerator before it’s ready to go. And while it’s full of flavor, it’s not as aggressive and challenging as some other kimchis I’ve eaten.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

It is, however, crunchy and gingery and funky from fish sauce and fermented salted shrimp (which is optional for anyone who avoids shellfish). It gets extra saltiness from soy sauce (or tamari for the gluten avoiders) and a bit of fruity heat from Korean chili powder.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

It also gets a little bit of richness from a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

Zimmerman said this cucumber kimchi is one of his favorite snacks (he recommends eating it chef-style, at midnight, from the container, while you stand with the refrigerator door open). I recommend stealing forkfuls of it when no one is looking, serving it alongside a piece of fish or a bowl of Korean cauliflower, or using it as a condiment anywhere you would use a pickle.

 

But however you eat it, enjoy.

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net

Cucumber Kimchi. Cold, crunchy, funky delicious. A fresher, quicker kimchi than the more famous cabbage version. Gluten free, dairy free. From Blossom to Stem | www.blossomtostem.net
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Cucumber Kimchi

Yield: 1 quart (approximately)
Source: Adapted from Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia
This cucumber kimchi is a fresh kimchi. It’s only fermented in the refrigerator for a couple of days so the cucumbers stay crunchy and don’t break down too much. Korean chili powder is fruitier and not as hot as chili flakes or cayenne pepper. You can substitute those varieties for the Korean chili powder, but use less. The salted shrimp is optional. It adds more funk and depth of flavor, but this will be fine without it. Use tamari rather than soy sauce if you’d like the dish to be gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cucumbers (I like Japanese cucumbers for this but any variety will work)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 medium carrot julienned
  • 1 green onion white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Korean chili powder
  • 4 cloves garlic grated on a microplane
  • 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated on a microplane
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 teaspoon salted shrimp optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Peel the cucumbers (you can leave a little bit of peel for added texture or peel them entirely). Cut each cucumber in half the long way, and then cut each half in half the long way again. Slice away the seeds and discard. Slice the cucumbers into slices about an 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. You don’t want these to be paper thin–you want slices thick enough to retain some crunch.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cucumbers with the sugar and salt and let sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse and drain the cucumbers.
  3. Mix everything else together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cucumbers and toss to combine. Refrigerate, covered, for two to three days to allow it to ferment before eating.

 

16 Comments

  • Oh I love fish sauce! No shame here. This cucumber kimchi looks SO good!!! I have never heard of kimchi make with cucumber but I am super intrigued!!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Chrissa! I hope you give it a try.

      Reply
  • I absolutely love kimchi, and your cucumber kimchi looks marvelous. I will have to try it this week!

    xoxo, Christina (Copy Her Style)

    Reply
    • Thanks, Christina! Let me know how it turns out.

      Reply
  • I looove fish sauce — always have it on hand and add it to so many recipes. Also love kimchi! Need to try this! Pinned!

    Reply
    • Thanks! I love this. It’s so light and fresh and funky in the best way.

      Reply
  • I love fish sauce! What an ingredient. With kimchi, delightful.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I love it too.

      Reply
  • I’ve still not got around to trying kimchi! But I know I’d love it! This looks fab!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sus! You should totally try kimchi.

      Reply
  • kimchi is something I’ve been willing to try since a long time. thanks for inspiring me, will probably get to work soon!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Claudia! I hope you give it a go.

      Reply
  • I’ve never had kimchi but with these beautiful photos It looks delicious!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jessica!

      Reply
  • I really need this! When I make this, I am totally going to have it with everything!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Shadi! I hope you love it.

      Reply

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