Oi Sobagi – Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi
Oi Sobaegi or Oi Sobagi – Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi – is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole wide world. I should make it more often. It’s actually quite easy to make. But I’ve been using the excuse that I can’t get Korean or Kirby cucumbers from my local grocers.
Truth be told, you don’t really NEED Korean or Kirby cucumbers; I just wanted them. You just need smaller seedless cucumbers that you can pickle.
So imagine my delight when I found bags and bags of small cucumbers during my last trip to Costco. The bag refers to them as “fancy cucumbers.” I don’t know about fancy, but they were the right size AND seedless. So, no more excuses. I MUST make some cucumber kimchi, right?
So I did. And am I glad.
It was so delicious! Oi Sobaegi has the crunch of a really good pickle with that unique delectable kimchi flavor. And I’m sure you’ve heard about the benefits of probiotics in fermented products, like kimchi and miso.
Tastes good and good for you! What more can you ask for? I hope you put this on your “must-try” list if you haven’t tried it already. And if you’ve never tried kimchi, this will be a perfect foray into, arguably, the most famous Korean side dish. Not only is it fabulously refreshing, it’s not as pungent as some other varieties. So it’s likely to suit the palates of even kimchi virgins.
You know what they say about kimchi: it’s an acquired taste. “They” are right. But once acquired, kimchi is addicting. And you are going to want your fix all the time. Trust me. Really.
Oi Sobaegi (Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi) Recipe
2 lb Korean or kirby cucumbers (~ 14-15 small cucumbers)
1/4 yellow onion
1/3 red bell pepper
1/4 large fuji apple (or 1/2 small fuji apple), cored and peeled
3 garlic cloves
1 garlic-sized ginger
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2 green onions/scallions, cut into rings
1 bunch Korean chives (buchu), cut into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces*
3-4 TB gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
~ 3 TB + 1 tsp salt
2 tsp fish sauce or salted shrimp
*Note: If you can’t find buchu, try to look for really thin scallions/green onions. And increase the number of scallions to about 6 from 2.
- Wash and dry cucumbers. Cut off the hard tips. Cut the cucumbers in half – LEAVING ABOUT 1/2 INCH INTACT. Cut them again perpendicular to the first cut – again leaving about 1/2 inch intact. It will look like four-legged pants.
- Rub the cucumbers with salt – one by one – by gripping each cucumber and rotating it like you are cleaning it. You will use about 2-3 TB of salt for this step. Place them in a large non-reactive bowl. Leave for about 20-30 minutes. This step will draw out liquid from the cucumbers and create a natural brine. Weigh down cucumbers with a heavy object if possible.
- Add yellow onion, red bell pepper, apple, garlic, ginger, and a little bit of water to a blender. You just need a teeny bit of water. It’s just to get the blender going. Blend until the mixture JUST forms a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl. Add agave or honey, gochugaru, fish sauce/salted shrimp, shredded carrots, green onions and buchu (Korean chives). Stir to mix. Set Aside.
- Rinse the cucumbers to rid of excess salt. Don’t over rinse. You just want the excess salt off. And rinse off any excess salt left in the bowl. Drain well. You can weigh them down again to expedite the draining process. Just remember to place a paper towel under the cucumbers to absorb the draining liquid.
- Stuff the cucumbers with the seasoning/filling from step 3. Separate the cucumber quarters gently with your fingers and spoon the seasoning in the center. It doesn’t have to be perfect; but try to use equal portions of seasoning per cucumber. Transfer the cucumbers to an air tight container – preferably glass or pyrex – by stacking the stuffed cucumbers in rows. Add a little bit of water (~ 1 TB of water) and about one teaspoon of salt to the bowl of seasoning. Swirl the water to get every bit of seasoning and add the liquid to the cucumbers. Place a sheet of saran wrap on top and push down lightly. Cover tightly.
- Leave out for about 2 days in the winter or colder months. The fermentation time will decrease as temperature increases.* So during the summer, 1 day of fermentation should be sufficient. Place in the refrigerator. Be sure to chill the Oi Sobaegi before serving.
* Cucumber kimchi tends to sour easily. Be sure not to over-ferment. Admittedly, there is a bit of a learning curve with kimchi making. But once you are familiar with it, you will understand what you need to adjust according to you palate. This is true when checking for “doneness” when fermenting. Once you’ve had some practice, you can do a smell test to see if it’s fermented enough to your liking. When kimchi has fermented, it will smell very differently than when you’ve just mixed the fresh ingredients. You will smell that slight zing (I don’t know how else to describe it). When it has gone sour or way past its prime, it will have a different smell as well; and when it does, it won’t smell pleasant.