Pickles, Korean Style – Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

cucumber kimchi

OK so this is the second old post I am re-posting. Yeah I’m a lazy ass bum, But, but but but, I feel morally obligated to disseminate some at least semi- authentic kimchi info across the tubes upon hearing of Bette Midler’s recently becoming a kimchi ambassador of sorts. A friend told me she saw Ms. Midler on the Today Show demonstrating how to make something she claimed was kimchi. It apparently involved stacked cabbage leaves with some seasoning in between. Mysteriously, the google cannot seem to locate any evidence of this incident. Anyway here’s a video of Better Midler preaching the kimchi gospel to Kelly Ripa. Pretty surreal shit, man:

Whoa. So anyway, I guess I can’t really complain about the motherland’s greatest gift to the world getting some press, but I dunno, it all just seems very, very wrong. Original post follows.

So I finally broke down and wrote a Citypaper piece about kimchi. It’s tantamount to, I dunno, someone from Iowa writing about corn. Actually that’s a terrible analogy, point is it just seems a bit cliche, but I know that’s irrational. In any case, in my defense it was under duress and I believe it to be interesting to Korea-philes if nothing else. Anyway the full text can be found here. Below are some hopefully helpful pics.

Korean cucumbers are a bit more irregularly shaped than hydroponic, pcikling, or slicer cukes, and also have small bumps and a yellowish cast. They can be found at most any Asian market, and are generally around $2/lb:

cukekimchi01 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi
Cut into 2″ lengths – make sure to trim the ends, apparently there is an enzyme in the flower bud end that causes the cucumber to become mushy, so trim both to be safe:

cukekimchi02 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi
Carefully bisect the sections lengthwise, leaving about a quarter inch intact – use the standard bagel slicing method:

cukekimchi03 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Rotate and repeat so that you end up with a mostly quartered section:

cukekimchi04 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Place the partially quartered sections into a bowl and salt thoroughly, making sure to salt the cut flesh. Allow to sit for at least two hours (sorry no pic). In the meantime, combine the seasonings to form a fairly thick paste:

cukekimchi05 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

After a couple of hours of salting, the sections should be a bit more pliable. Brush off any excess salt (do not rinse!) and discard any collected liquids. With a teaspoon, fill the sections generously with the seasoning paste:

cukekimchi06 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

You should end up with sections that look like this:

cukekimchi07 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Pack as tightly as you can in the closest fitting containter you can find:

cukekimchi08 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Rinse the bowl you used to mix the paste with a bit of fresh water, perhaps a 1/4 cup. This will be used to submerge the kimchi, and should taste quite salty – add salt if necessary:

cukekimchi09 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

cukekimchi10 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Cover cucumber sections with brine and cover with plastic wrap, making sure they are packed down well. Use a weight (e.g. soup can, brick) if necessary:

cukekimchi11 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Leave out overnight at room temperature and taste – if the kimchi still tastes too fresh, give it another few hours, up to 24 total. Then refrigerate. Final product:

cukekimchi12 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Alternative preparation – my mom tells me that the following is actually the more proper way to make this kimchi. It consists merely of a diffierent cutting technique. The above semi-quartering method is more convenient and quicker, while the method below yields more attractive results. Instead of quartering the sections, make a deep score, about a third of the way through. Repeat 4-5 times evenly spaced around each section:

cukekimchi13 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

After salting, fill the scores with spicy paste and proceed as directed above. Final product:

cukekimchi14 Pickles, Korean Style - Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi

Sue Hong’s Easy Oh-Ee Soh-Beh-Gee (Cucumber Kimchi)


6-8 medium Korean cucumbers* OR
8-10 Kirby or pickling cucumbers OR
3-4 seedless hydroponic cucumbers
1/2 cup Korean red pepper powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion or chives
1/4 cup coarse sea salt, or slightly less to taste (table or kosher salt will yield mushier kimchi)
2 tbsp fish sauce (Three Crabs brand is very good)
1 tsp sugar

Cut the tips off both ends of cucumbers (this will ensure crunchiness), then cut into 2-3 inch segments

Quarter the segment lengthwise, cutting almost but not all the way through, leaving four spears attached at one end

In a bowl, salt the pieces thoroughly with sea salt, and allow to rest for 2 hours

In another bowl, combine all other ingredients and enough salt to make the mixture quite salty, but overpoweringly so; add just enough water to make a thick paste

After the salted cucumber has rested, wipe off any remaining salt and discard any collected liquid

For each segment, using a teaspoon, generously smear the spicy paste in between the cucumber spears (should still be attached, but a bit more flexible now)

Pack tightly in a glass or stainless steel container, vertically if possible

Add fresh water to the bowl that contained the spice paste, swirl and rinse any remaining paste into the water, and pour over cucumbers, adding only enough to barely cover

Cover the container and allow to rest at room temperature overnight or about 8 hours, then taste for sharpness and acidity; if desired, leave out for a total of up to 12 hours before refrigerating for up to a week

*Note: Do not use the smooth, dark green “slicer” cucumbers, as their skin is too thick and seeds too hard. All ingredients listed above can be found at Hanareum or Lotte Asian supermarkets, both on Rte. 40

-Henry Hong

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9 Responses to “Pickles, Korean Style – Oi Sobaegi/Cucumber Kimchi”

  1. I loved your article in the City Paper! I am a huge fan of all things fermented (pickles, kombucha tea, vinegar, beer…) This looks like a perfect summer recipe, and I can’t wait to get some supplies from Lotte and try it out!

  2. PST

    Loved the recipe, love the crispy crunchy cucumber kimchi!

  3. I have kept my friends stocked with a steady supply of cucumbers all summer and there are still about 800,000 cucumbers left in my garden. Though your recipe said not to use certain types; and I’m not sure if mine are slicer or pickling or what but I tried your recipe and it’s delicious! Thank you.

  4. thank you so much!

    after seeing this on a korean show (we got married : ) ) i’ve been itching to try these. : ) great for a picnic on a beautiful summer day! i can’t wait till the snow melts and the grass grows thick again.

    thanks again! delicious!

  5. Hi Kristine! yah I can’t wait for summer and oi kimchi. So did you try making these? How did they turn out? Got any pics? If you haven’t tried them, they really are a good project for kimchi first-timers. I will be happy to help with advice and tips. Soon I will post about more advanced kimchi and other banchan.

  6. jane

    henry oppa, it looks delicious! damn it, now I have to make some o-ee kimchi and make the trip to lotte!

  7. jane

    oh yeah, and I found your website, it seems :)

  8. David

    Wonderful Henry. My ex-girlfriend used to make this, but it seems like a more ghetto version. She just used cucumber, vinegar, salt, and red pepper powder and flakes, but I absolutely LOVED it. I’ve been reading recipes for about 30 minutes, but nothing compares to a simple recipe with step by step pictures. Now all I have to do is find a place to buy the red pepper powder…

  9. Richard


    I listen to you, Henry, on Midday now and then. I’m new here, but I had to comment. Simple–combined 85/15 ground beef with roughly chopped cabbage kimchee, and Danish blue cheese. Go easy with the amount of blue, it’ll be tempting, but it’s as simple as it sounds, and more delicious than you can imagine.

    MUST GRILL or BROIL. I don’t see getting rid of the moisture in both the fat of the meat, and the liquid from any quality or average, store-bought kimchee. Bon appetit.

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