Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cucumber Cilantro Salad: I'm like my dad.

For my mom who makes this and for my dad who loves cilantro and who taught me to like it.

My father is from a province in Korea called Kaesong (개성). It is just north of the 38th parallel and there are spots in South Korea where you can just see pieces of it. He has not been able to go back since leaving during the Korean war, and I think it is his hope that someday in the immediate future he can go back and see where he was born. Along with an intense love of his birthplace, my father still loves the style of cooking of that province. Kaesong food is incredibly refined and is considered one of the great culinary provinces of Korea. My paternal grandmother was a master of this food and heavily influenced my mother's cooking and consequently influenced the palates of brothers and me. While young, my grandmother lived with us and cooked all these wonderful special things for us and we enjoyed her food immensely. But this post isn't about Kaesong food, because although I love it, many of the foods are far too time consuming for me to cook, and I am forced to live only with the memories of my grandmother's amazing food.

While I was young however, there was always this plate of green leaves that would appear at the table that was eaten by my father, enjoyed by him. I even remember one day, there was a visitor at our house, a friend of my father, who was curious about the green leaves and asked my mother and father what it was. My mother responded, "It is go-soo (고수)." He wanted to try it so he took a leaf, dipped it into some spicy chili sauce, and popped it into his mouth. His facial expression after he began chewing it was something of sheer disgust and amazement that something that tasted so bad was actually in his mouth. My mom started laughing and handed him a napkin and told him to spit it out and he must not have liked it one bit, because he didn't hesitate and spit it out. Meanwhile, my father sat beside his guest, dipping the leaves into the sauce and chewing it with such clear relish. The leaf? Cilantro. The Korean word for it? Go soo (고수). Cilantro, or its very very close cousin of it, exists in Korean cooking, and people are often rather surprised by the fact. I'm not sure if this is a traditional Kaesong type salad, but it's one that my mom made while we were growing up and it is just yummy and delicious. I used it in my Korean tacos as one of the toppings but it goes with so much more than that. Try it with:
Korean Marinade Flank steak
Ginger Soy Chicken
Mochi Beef

Cucumber Cilantro Salad
2 cups chopped cucumber (I used the Persian cucumbers but an English/hothouse/kirby cucumber with the seeds removed would be just fine)
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro (do not be afraid to use some of the stem for this - the stem is YUMMY)

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Korean chili powder (gochu gahloo) or crushed chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

In a small bowl whisk the ingredients for the dressing together. In another bowl place cucumber and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss gently to coat.

Printable recipe


Kevin said...

Cucumber salads with Korean chili powder are a really nice combo of cool and juicy and spicy heat.

Melynda said...

This sounds great, I have just found your blog, and I will visit often. Thanks.

NikiTheo said...

I love cucumber kimchi! My best friend is Korean and always has the traditional cabbage kimchi on hand (not a fan of cabbage), but one day she showed up cucumber kimchi and I wouldn't let anyone near it. This seems to be a version of that kimchi, although I know she doesn't use cilantro. I am kinda drooling for some now!!!

Mia said...

Salads like this are perfect in the summer - thanks for the recipe!

lisaiscooking said...

This sounds delicious! The spicy flavors with cool cucumber sounds like a great match. I have to try this.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanne, wondering if you can help me, the other day we went to a Korean restaurant and we had a set of Korean Traditional set meal, we like one of the side dish very much wondering if you know how to make it, the dish is "dried lily buds". Thank you in advance.

Joanne Choi said...

Hey Ling -

I'm trying to figure out what it is that you exactly ate. Lilybuds aren't THAT common in the Korean cooking that I know - far more common in Chinese cooking. I did some research, consulted with my mom and was unable to figure out exactly what it is that you ate. What color was it and what was the flavor?

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for your prompt reply, I know dried lily buds (also know as golden needle) is common in Chinese cooking, its orange yellow in color, the taste just plain. I think they might have prickle them not sure. Anyway, thanks for your help. I am now learning to cook Korean foods, love them and love Korean side dishes. Thanks again! Have a nice day! Lingling

Melanie said...

I am so excited to try this recipe because all of a sudden, I have a craving for cucumber salad - it's hot here in Korea and I'm eight months pregnant! Best of all, I'll be able to find all the ingredients and the recipe is in English, (I'm Canadian, husban is Korean). I live in Ulsan, 경상남도 and cilantro is NOT as popular here as it is in the north. I love it, but what I love more is watching other South Koreans eat it. They always have that surprised/disgusted expression - hilarious!

Leigh and Anthony said...

Hi Joanne,

I have a question about the cucumber salad. Is there a way to make it so they cucumber don't give off so much liquid? I tried this and I had a lot of liquid.



P.S. I really enjoy your recipes :)


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