summer kimchi: chayote squash, cucumbers, perilla leaves
it feels like a very wonderful time to be alive, and i’m not just saying that because i have a fridge filled with different kinds of kimchi.
i’m currently deep in the weeds with a book i’ve latched onto and never want to end called pachinko. the book details the stories of four generations of koreans that immigrated from the peninsula to japan during the japanese occupation and wartime in the early to mid 1900’s.
from reading this book, i’ve managed to break out into full fledged tears on the train, dreamt about the characters in my sleep, and drifted into wondering about what my grandparents experienced in fleeing and surviving during these years. i learned that food was incredibly hard to come by, and it was common to scrap together, preserve, pickle, and ferment to stretch what little was available. the lack of food gave birth to a new type of cuisine that laid new bricks onto the foundations of how we understand and eat korean food today.
i choose to pickle cucumbers, chayote squash, and perilla leaves not out of necessity and because i need them to last me through the weeks and months, but rather because these vegetables are in season (aka for the name of sustainability), the crispness provides respite in the thick summer humidity, and i don’t really have the patience to sit around and wait for vegetables to ferment and ripen. what incredible privilege.
it really becomes sobering to see how different the intentions behind kimchifying fresh vegetables can be across three generations of koreans. i remember my grandfather, the fresh and free vegetables from his bakersfield garden that he found a haven, and how my grandmother took whatever became surplus and dutifully preserved them as banchan. my cousins and i would enjoy my grandmother’s delicious summer kimchi variations and are lucky enough to only experience pleasant nostalgia when we have it elsewhere in adulthood, but i wonder what she thought about when she pickled fresh summer vegetables. was she brought to memories of wartime and famine?
chayote squash kimchi
chayote squash prep
two medium sized chayote squash sliced in 1/6 inch disks
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon cane sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp toasted sesame seeds
take sliced chayote squash and toss in salt. let it sit out for 30 minutes to release the moisture. rinse under cold water and pat dry.
in a small bowl, whisk together paste ingredients - vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, salt and sesame seeds.
massage the paste into the chayote squash disks and let it sit out for at least 15 minutes. disks should be tangy, sweet, and crisp!
3 cups sliced cucumbers (~1/3 inch thick)
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs thinly sliced green onion
1.5 tsp gochugaru
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp cane sugar
1/3 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
take sliced cucumbers and toss in a bowl with salt. leave out for 15 minutes until cucumbers release a bit of moisture. drain and rinse.
in a small bowl, whisk together paste ingredients - garlic, green onions, gochugaru, fish sauce, cane sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds.
dress cucumbers evenly in paste, let it sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. refrigerate if needed!
perilla leaf kimchi
30-35 fresh perilla leaves
4 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs fish sauce
3 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
1/2 tsp gochugaru
1 tsp sesame oil
a pinch of kosher salt
rinse and pat perilla leaves dry.
combine paste ingredients evenly.
in a small food container or serving bowl, lay one perilla leaf at the bottom. using a spoon, apply a very thin layer of the paste and spread around the leaf using the back of your spoon. don’t worry about the paste coating the entire leaf - the paste will spread out onto the leaf over time. stack another perilla leaf on top, apply paste, and repeat until all leaves have been coated.
if you have extra paste, drizzle it atop the first layer allowing it to drip down and spread out onto the bottom leaves.
leave out for at least 30 minutes before serving. in my opinion, the perilla leaves get better with time if left in the fridge. i’ve thoroughly enjoyed my perilla leaf kimchi even after three weeks on rice, soft boiled eggs, sweet potatoes!