Perhaps you’re one of those people who tracks the seasons by recipes. A favorite beef stew in February, a warming apple pie in October, a cherry tomato pesto pasta in late August. If your internal recipe filing system works like this, you’ll want to add a new dish to the summer mix: Selina S. Lee’s cucumber mak kimchi.
Over the past few months, Selina, a San Francisco-based recipe/menu developer and restaurant consultant, has shared a slew of kimchi recipes on her website and Instagram account, powered by her pure adoration of kimchi. Born in Seoul, Korea, she moved with her family to the U.S. in her teenage years, bringing with her a trove of Korean recipes and a sincere love of the craft.
“I have a great passion for Korean cooking,” Selina says, “and would like to share more about it by telling the story behind the food and its culture.”
One way she’s done this is by sharing kimchi recipes. On her Instagram account, she’s embarked on an audacious kimchi journey this year, her weekend kimchi project, as she likes to call it. “I decided to test and write 100 or more recipes about kimchi,” she says, explaining that she’s examined both different varieties of kimchi along with numerous ways of cooking with them. At the start of the year, she didn’t expect she’d be sheltering at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this extra time in the kitchen has not only given her culinary entertainment, but has served as a welcoming distraction for her followers as well.
“I wanted to share something on my social media to help people stay positive and healthy,” Selina says. “Making kimchi at home was one of those things that i enjoyed the most. It helped me get my mind off things that had negative distractions in my life. So far, I have received positive responses from many people.”
One of those recipes, the aforementioned cucumber mak kimchi, which she’s graciously brought to Chowhound, is the kind of dish you can snack on all summer. Refreshing and crunchy, the kimchi boasts long sticks of cucumber and matchstick-sized Korean radishes. Even better, it’s incredibly easy to make.
“Everytime you see the word ‘mak (막)’ in names of Korean dishes or kimchi, it implies that the recipe is somewhat rustic, easier to make compared to the conventional way of making the dish,” Selina says.
This kimchi doesn’t require a long fermentation process and wait, but rather can be eaten right away, making it an ideal choice for kimchi beginners (or anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time on their hands). To make it, you’ll salt the chopped cucumber to let it brine, then put together the kimchi paste, a collaboration of fine and coarse gochugaru chili pepper powders, garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, salted shrimp, plum syrup, and stock. The cucumbers are tossed with chopped Korean or daikon radish (and any other crunchy vegetables you have on hand, like carrots or green onions), then mixed with the kimchi paste and poured into a jar that can be sealed tightly. Selina notes that some people like eating it on the same day, but she prefers leaving it out at room temperature overnight, then storing it in the fridge.
The finished product is light and cooling—the perfect salve for a hot summer day—and can be paired with noodle soups or a bowl of rice porridge.
Cucumber Mak Kimchi
Makes: 2 quarts
- 8 persian cucumbers
- 2 tbsp fine crystal sea salt (꽃소금)
- 200g Korean radish mu or daikon radish
- Optional add ins: carrots, green onion, chives
- Kimchi paste: 4 tbsp gochugaru chili pepper powder (coarse)
- 4 tbsp gochugaru chili pepper powder (fine)
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp sugar (use grated fruit pureé like asian pear or apple as a sugar alternative)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp salted shrimp (juice only), optional
- 1 tbsp plum syrup (매실청)
- 1⁄2 cup water or stock (kelp, dried shiitake mushroom)
- Wash and clean cucumbers and cut both ends then cut it in half into two chunks. Cut the chunk in halves to roughly remove the seeded part by using a metal spoon. This will help cucumber to stay more crunchy. Add sea salt to brine for about 15 min.
- While cucumber is brining in salt, make kimchi paste by combining all the ingredients. The paste should be somewhat dry and pasty as cucumber will produce a lot of water in the coming days. Taste to adjust according to the following: Saltiness/Umami – fish sauce, salted shrimp (juice). Sweetness – sugar, plum syrup. Spicy – gochugaru, chili pepper powder (gochugaru comes in different spice levels so make sure to look for this info on the package: spicy, regular, mild)
- Cut radish into small matchstick shredded pieces. You can add ingredients like carrots, green onion or chives. I like to cut them in the same length as the radish.
- Remove all the liquid from the cucumber brine and add the rest of the ingredients, add kimchi paste and mix well. Store in an air-tight container. Make sure the kimchi is padded tight in the container. Put a fermentation weight on top if you have too much room.
- Fermentation: Some people like the rawness of the flavor and eat it on the same day! I like to leave it out at room temperature overnight then keep it in the fridge. It seems to taste best in about 1-2 days.