Spicy Korean Red Pepper (Gochugaru) Cucumber Salad... Summer, for me, usually means I use more fresh vegetables in our daily meals... sometimes I find we go through a week eating more vegetarian meals than normal. Lately, I've been keen on the idea of putting up a variety of small vegetable dishes on the table as part of our meal.... similar to the Korean banchan (small side dishes).
Most of the dishes may be vegetarian, but every so often I'll end up using some sort of meat or fish to supplement the meal.... or will make the Korean Japchae I posted some time ago. I love using sheets of toasted seaweed(nori) to wrap up small amounts of food from the banchan. Sometimes, if I don't have any toasted seaweed, I'll use the rice paper wrappers instead (Vietnamese spring roll style). In any case, this type of meal is quite light and refreshing, and perfect for the summer months. So I thought to share one of the dishes that I make. The recipe does require an ingredient that can only be found in a Korean market, so I kind of feel hesitant in sharing the recipe, just because some of you may not have access to an Asian store. Yet, even though I don't like to share recipes that involve an ingredient that's hard to find, I realize nowadays you can find most things online. So if you live close to an Asian market, then it shouldn't be too hard to find:)...
For me it was worth buying the Korean red pepper flakes(gochugaru) when I went down to visit family recently.... stopped by a Korean supermarket and bought a big bag of it and am loving it it! If you've never been inside a Korean market, well, it's fascinating, to say the least. You'll see aisles devoted just to their red pepper paste(gochujang) or pepper flakes(gochugaru).... and you'll see all sorts of ingredients you won't find in a regular supermarket. When I bought the gochugaru, I had no idea when I would use up the big bag, but ever since I added it to a dish, I haven't stopped using it. I use it in all sorts of dishes, from making my first kimchi, to adding it to soups (kimchi jjigae... love!), or marinating fish, or adding it to all sorts of vegetables.... like this quick cucumber salad.
The Korean red pepper flakes should definitely not be substituted with regular chile flakes(or paprika for that matter)... they really are in a class of their own. You can't beat the color you get when using the Korean chiles... and they're also sweeter, without that extra heat that's normally associated with regular chiles. Hope you enjoy...
Note: This salad uses a dressing that can easily be adjusted to taste... so feel free to add more or less of the ingredients. You want a nice balance of sour, salty, sweet and spicy.... I love sesame oil, so I always add a bit more.
You will need: adapted from the Kitchn ~ makes a small batch for 2-3 people
2 cucumbers, sliced (Kirby preferred, but I used Persian/Lebanese cucumbers that were about 6 inches in length)
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons gochugaru( Korean red pepper flakes, NOT chile flakes)
1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 scallion/chives, chopped
2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasonings as needed... I used 2 tsp of the red pepper flakes and 2 tsps of sesame oil.
3. Add cucumber slices and toss to coat. Adjust seasoning again, if needed.
Serve at room temperature or chilled. The cucumber salad is great into the next day as well... the cucumbers will wilt a bit and release moisture (seen in top photo), but it's just as delicious.