One of my summertime favorites is this cucumber kimchi called Oi Sobagi. My mom would go visit a local vegetable farmer’s field and buy Korean cucumbers by the bushel, and make various pickles, side dishes, and this cucumber kimchi! When our farmer friend no longer had fresh cucumbers in her yard, my mom would go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and pick up small kirbys to make this for us.
Oi Sobagi (오이 – cucumber, 소박이 – stuffed or filled) is a side dish, or banchan, that I love to eat with rice and grilled meat. The freshness of the cucumber cuts the grease from the protein-rich meal, and the saltiness and spiciness of the dish balances out with the sweetness from the rice. I love eating cucumbers, so this is definitely one of my favorite dishes to eat.
It’s a great side dish for a hot Summer day, because it doesn’t require you to turn on a burner or the oven! It’s fresh, crunchy, savory, and *so* delicious! You can enjoy this even during the cooler months, as long as you can find kirbys in the store.
Here is my mom’s recipe that I’ve codified and adjusted to have the addition of fish sauce (She makes this without it because my sister is a vegetarian.). The fish sauce makes this so tasty!
- 1-1½kg (about 2½-3lbs) Kirby Cucumbers, or Korean Cucumbers
- 30g (3T) Kosher Salt
- 150g (about 1½ cups) Garlic Chives
- 125g (2) medium Carrots
- 150g (2) small Onions
- 12g (1½T) Garlic, minced
- 25g (3T) Red Pepper Flakes
- 36g (2T) Fish Sauce
- 12g (1T) Granulated Sugar
- Wash the cucumbers. If using Kirbys, slice off the stem and flower ends of each cucumber; if you are using Korean cucumbers, cut them to about 9-10cm (3½-4in) in length. Make crosshatch cuts straight down the length of each, stopping about 1cm away from cutting straight through.
- Place all of the cucumbers into a large bowl and generously salt all surfaces, exterior and interior.
- Set the bowl aside for 45 minutes, flipping the contents every 10-15 minutes.
- While the cucumbers are brining, wash the garlic chives and remove any wilted strands. Cut away any woody pieces, and chop the chives to ½-1cm. Peel and matchstick the carrots, and thinly slice the onions. Place all three into a medium bowl.
- Add the garlic, pepper flakes, fish sauce, and sugar to the sliced vegetables. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
- After 45 minutes, rinse the cucumbers and drain well. Carefully open the end of each and begin stuffing the cucumbers with the seasoning.
- Stack the stuffed cucumbers into a container, cover, and leave on the counter for 4-6 hours. Refrigerate and consume within 7-10 days.
- I like to slice the ends off to allow the seasoning to reach every part of each cucumber. If you would like to keep the ends to maintain the cucumber shape, you may do so.
- If you have a mandoline, use it to shred the carrots; otherwise, slice into short matchsticks.
- Taste-test the stuffing: is it salty or sweet? Adjust the levels with fish sauce or sugar. Another thing to think about: if your carrots and onions are naturally sweet, consider putting less sugar into the seasoning, and adding more as you go. We want to have a good level of salinity, but have the mixture be balanced off with sweetness and spiciness.
- After rinsing the cucumbers, I give them a gentle squeeze to get the excess water out of the crevices.
- Don't over-stuff the cucumbers; they only have so much capacity until they break at the connection point. Any extra seasoning can be placed above and below the cucumbers, and taken out when serving.
- I leave my cucumber kimchi on the counter to let it ferment a little bit, but you can make this dish and serve immediately if you enjoy eating fresh cucumbers. On a warm day, I tend to place the container in the refrigerator earlier to prevent over-fermentation. This is really a dish that is best eaten promptly, for fear that you may be eating squishy cucumbers. That's never a good thing. Small batches are key!
- When ready to serve, you can leave them whole and place them onto a serving dish. However, I like to cut the cucumbers into their four sections to make it easier for everyone to eat!
**Here are some of the ingredients I use for this recipe. Please, feel free to browse and ask questions on anything you see listed below.**