Cucumber Craziness 

Whilst I’m at it, I might as well share some of my favourite cucumber recipes. So far, I can offer Chinese 拍黄瓜 (2 versions), Taiwanese 凉拌黄瓜 (pictures to follow)and Korean pickled cucumber 오이나물, all of which make for great cold starters or side dishes.

Chinese cucumber I:

拍黄瓜literally means beaten/smashed cucumber, and that is exactly what you do.

Ready to get rid of some pent-up anger? Need to relieve some inner tension?

This is, most certainly, one of the tastiest (if slightly messy) ways of doing so!

For best results, use a proper vegetable knife or cleaver.

Place the cucumber on a chopping board and remove any object in the near vicinity.

Use the flat side of the blade to smash the cucumber (I usually cut the cucumber into a few pieces first to somewhat reduce the splashing) until it breaks apart.

Cut the fragments into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt.

Next, mince garlic and, optionally, crush some dried chillies. Mix with cucumbers.

Then add vinegar ( I prefer white rice vinegar for this dish, but brown vinegar will do nicely, too), a hint of soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil.

Place lid on bowl and shake well, then serve immediately.

Chinese cucumber II:

This is a somewhat spicier version with peanuts, chopped, not smashed 🙂

You need:

1 cucumber, obviously.

soy sauce (light), about 1.5 tsp

1tbsp salt

1 spoon of sugar (you can also use honey instead, too sickly sweet for my liking tho)

1-2 spoons of vinegar (white rice or dark)

1 tbsp of sesame oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

chilli flakes

a handful of untreated peanuts

Preparation:

Slice cucumber length-wise and cut into 3cm strips.

Mix soy sauce, salt, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl.

Heat sesame oil in a small pan, add chilli flakes and stir-fry over low heat to release the fragrance. As you take the pan off the heat, put in garlic and stir, then mix the content with the ingredients in the bowl. pour over cucumber, toss lightly and place in refrigerator.

Before serving, roast peanuts in little oil until they turn a golden brown. Sprinkle over cucumbers and serve.

This dish tastes even better on the second day, provided you have any left!

Korean cucumber:

This is a very easy, quick-to-make side dish, also perfect for bibimbap (see previous blog post). For best results, pickle several hours in advance and place in fridge.

Slice cucumber into very thin slices, mix with salt and leave for 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Drain off excess liquid in a colander and gently squeeze cucumbers dry. Return to bowl.

Mix rice vinegar with sugar and chilli powder (or sweet pepper powder). Cover bowl and place in fridge. Serve chilled.

As for the Taiwanese version, I don’t have any pictures just yet, but the recipe goes as follows:

Cut cucumber into strips (similar to Chinese cucumber II).

Heat 2 spoonfuls of white vinegar, add two spoons of sugar and wait until it has completely dissolved. Let mixture cool down, then pour over cucumber.

Add chillies if required and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours.

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Bibimbap or mixed rice heaven

So today I am making Bibimbap (비빔밥), Korean mixed rice with vegetables (and meat), one of my favourite comfort foods in the world, especially for cold and grey autumn days like today.

There are many variations of this dish, and as long as you have rice, eggs and some vegetables at home, you’ll always be able to conjure up a fabulastic meal.

It is also a great way to get the little ones to eat some veggies. My boy loves his bap, so I will share both the adult (spicy and mainly cooked ingredients) and the child recipe (mainly raw vegetables) with you.

It does take a bit of preparation time, depending on how many toppings you want, there are quite a few cooking steps involved. So, here goes:

DOLSOT BIBIMBAP

Ingredients for 4 persons:

4 serving portions of steamed white rice

(most recipes suggest short-grain because that gives the best crust in the stone pot, I use Basmati, depends on your preference)

Vegetables, depending on the content of your fridge/pantry, e.g.:

1 cucumber

1 white radish

200g spinach

2 carrots

4-6 mushrooms

Garlic, ginger, scallions (all minced)

Soy sauce (again, preferably dark, Japanese), sesame oil, rice vinegar, Teriyaki sauce

sesame seeds

Optional: 250g lean beef

4 eggs

2 Tbsp Gochujang (red chilli paste)

Bibimbap is served in bowls or stone pots (dolsot bibimbap).

This dish can be served with meat, but also makes for a tasty vegetarian/vegan dish if you just skip the beef and/or egg.

Cooking method:

Step 1:  Cook the rice in a pot or rice cooker. Make sure you don’t add too much water, as the rice should not be too soggy. Place the dolsot into the oven and pre-heat.

Step 2: Pickle cucumber and radish. You could just chop/slice and add them raw, but I prefer pickling them, ideally a few hours in advance.

For this slice cucumber into very thin slices, mix with salt and leave for 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Drain off excess liquid in a colander and gently squeeze cucumbers dry. Return to bowl.

Mix rice vinegar with sugar and chilli powder (or sweet pepper powder). Cover bowl and place in fridge.


Cut the radish into match sticks, mix with salt and leave in a bowl to absorb the salt. After 15 mins, rinse and pat dry with kitchen cloth. Add sugar, sesame oil, chilli powder and vinegar, cover and cool in fridge.

Step 3:  Julienne beef and marinade in Teriyaki sauce. Add sesame seeds.

Later, preferably just before you want to serve, stir-fry quickly until just about done.

Step 4: Prepare/chop/ mince all the vegetables:

  • Spinach: wash (or defrost) spinach, pat dry and stir-fry quickly with a bit of oil. Add minced garlic and deglaze with a bit of soy sauce. Set aside/keep warm

Carrots: peel and cut into match sticks. Sauté in a lightly oiled pan for 1 – 2 minutes over medium heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds, add salt to taste.

  •  mushrooms: cut into thin slices and stir-fry with oil and scallions.

Step 5:  fry eggs sunny side up.

Put a serving of cooked rice in each dolsot, then add vegetables and meat if desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions, ginger.

Add one fried egg and a dollop of red chilli paste to each and serve.
For the kids’ version I usually omit the less popular vegetables and stick with julienned carrots and cucumbers (add here any other veg your kid may like, raw or cooked).

Instead of the spicy chilli paste, my boy uses soy sauce or *shameface* ketchup.

It is definitely a family dish as everyone can add or leave out what they like or dislike, and on top of being scrumptilicious, it is alsoperfect for getting rid of leftovers.