This edamame-enriched version of Korean cucumber salad is hot and spicy and sesame-infused. Delicious as a side dish or on rice in bi bim bap.
This summer’s weird, split-personality weather—first hot and dry and now hot and rainy—has wreaked havoc on most of the plants in my garden. The high heat in early summer kept my tomato plants from setting many fruits, and then when the few tomatoes that had formed were beginning to ripen, the sudden rain caused them to crack and burst open.
The one vegetable that’s doing well is the one I never intended to plant: Labeled “zucchini” when I bought them, two tiny plants turned out to be cucumbers, which is for the best because they’ve been much more fruitful than any of the squash I’m trying to grow.
Right now I’m harvesting one or two cucumbers a day, many more than my family normally eats. But those cucumbers will not be going to waste. In fact, I relish the opportunity to use them in one of our favorite dishes, Korean-Style Cucumber Salad, a fiery hot salad that we discovered years ago in Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. In the past we’ve used it only as one of the toppings for Bi Bim Bab, but we love it so much that we could easily eat it as a side dish or condiment with just about any kind of cuisine, from Korean to Japanese to Indian.
Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to make it with less sesame oil and salt, and this time around I made it a little heartier with the addition of edamame. For most people, it’s still more of a side dish than a main dish, but I’m not too embarrassed to admit that last night I ate two servings of it as my entire meal. It’s that good.
Of course, if you make it as hot as I do (and if you like spicy food, you really should), you might want to eat something along with it to douse the flames a little.
Korean-Style Cucumber and Edamame Salad
- 2 medium cucumbers (about 16 ounces) peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 medium onion , quartered and sliced
- 1 teaspoon Kosher flake salt
- 1 cup shelled edamame , prepared (boiled in salted water for 5 minutes)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice , freshly squeezed
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper , or to taste
- 1/2 tsp toasted (dark) sesame oil (adds so much to the recipe but leave it out if you must)
Put the cucumber and onion slices into a mixing bowl and toss with salt. Allow to stand at room temperature for about an hour to draw out some of their moisture. Drain well in a colander. (If you’re avoiding salt, you can also rinse with cold water and allow to drain completely.)
While the cucumbers are sweating, toast the sesame seeds. Place them in a dry skillet over medium-high heat and stir until they begin to brown. (Alternately, place on a baking sheet in a toaster oven and toast until light brown; watch carefully because they burn easily.) Once they are toasted, crush lightly with a mortar and pestle.
Put the cucumber and onion back into the mixing bowl and add all remaining ingredients, including sesame seeds. Refrigerate to allow flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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