Garlic Chili Cucumbers

Have you ever craved Korean banchan so bad that you wish your favorite Korean restaurant delivered because, honestly, you’re too lazy to call to place a takeout order and drive to pick it up? Then you think to yourself, “How hard could it be to make that spicy cucumber salad?” But then you look up the recipe and realize you don’t have gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes)! So you spend the next hour wallowing before settling on good ‘ol peanut butter and jelly or something not as satisfying.

Have you been in this situation? Join the club.

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A couple of weekends ago, though, I just could not let up on this craving. Z was gone for the weekend on his annual first backpacking weekend with the guys, so I had a kitchen all to myself. What to do, what to do?

Improvise.

In my refrigerator was a Costco bag of cocktail cucumbers. There was more than half the bag left and I had to use the bag soon.

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My kitchen is always stocked with Asian ingredients because those are the flavors I am most familiar with. Sesame oil, rice vinegar, fish sauce, furikake, so on and so on. But why, oh why, didn’t I have gochugaru?! Or at least gochujang (red chili paste).

I did have all of the things I needed to make cucumbers that were tangy, spicy, and nutty. So I did just that. It may be faux banchan, but these garlic chili cucumbers satisfy the craving quickly!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Cocktail cucumbers
  • 1 tbsp. Sea salt
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. Red chili flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tsp. Granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground black pepper (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. Rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha (optional)

Recipe:

  1. Cut the cucumbers in half, lengthwise. Quarter each piece and place in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the cucumbers. Let this sit for 30 minutes. This will extract all of the excess water to keep your cucumbers crunchy. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the rice vinegar, sesame oil, red chili flakes, garlic, sugar, and black pepper and sriracha, if you’re using it.
  4. Drain the water from the cucumbers, and urge the temptation to rinse.
  5. Place the cucumbers back in the bowl and pour in the rice vinegar mixture. Toss together until all of the cucumbers are coated.
  6. Taste the cucumbers. Adjust seasoning as needed. Need more salt? Add some. Not spicy enough? Add more chili flakes or another squeeze of sriracha. Want more of a pickled flavor? A dash of rice vinegar.
  7. You can eat this right away or chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours (or more).

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