A traditional Korean meal has a lot of side dishes. Some appear at the table all year round like kimchee, spicy fermented cabbage, while others are more seasonal. I love the site of a Korean dinner table because it is always crowded with so many plates of food. It looks like a mini food festival.
For me, the best side dishes are complementary to the weather. In the winter I love warm and steamy sides while in the summer I prefer cold and refreshing ones. This sweet and spicy cucumber side dish is just right for the hot days of summer. I’m done with New York’s heat and humidity. I can’t wait until fall. Breezy weather, colorful trees, acorn squash, pumpkin pie! Need I say more? Sigh, well back to reality. These cucumbers were just the right cure after a sweaty day of walking around the city. The dish is sweet, tangy, and very refreshing, but watch out! They’re also extremely spicy. Eat them drizzled over rice or thin, cold noodles.
Sweet and Spicy Cucumbers
Adapted from A Korean Mother’s Cooking Notes
1 1/2 cups cucumbers, sliced*
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon red pepper powder**
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 tablespoon sesame salt
Wash the cucumbers and halve them lengthwise. If your cucumber is big then cut them in half again to get quarters. Cut into 1/16th inch thick pieces.
In a small bowl mix dissolve the salt and sugar in the vinegar.
Pour the sauce over the cucumbers and mix well. Add the red pepper powder, green onions, and sesame salt. Mix until combined.
*It is best to use small cucumbers because they have fewer seeds. However, larger cucumbers work well too. After quartering them lengthwise, cut some of the seeds out.
**You can substitute red chili flakes for the red pepper powder. You can also adjust the amount to suit your tastes.