Asian Pickles: Korea Review and Giveaway

Disclosures: There are Amazon affiliate links from which I may make a commission. The giveaway prize is provided courtesy of Ten Speed Press who also provided me a review copy.

I don't know about you, but I'm crazy for Korean food. Frankly, I don't understand why it isn't a bigger deal in America. The flavors are overall quite friendly to the Western palate, with a great balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors.

Because I'm a grazer, my favorite part of any Korean meal is the sometimes dizzying array of banchan, snicky snacky dishes of wee tastes that excited the palate as appetizers, or refresh between bites of tangy bulgogi or a steaming bowl of kimchi jjigae. No self-respecting place would serve fewer than eight or nine, and I've heard rumors of places in L.A.'s Koreatown that lay out as many as three dozen. 

In with the banchan, and insinuating itself into every part of the meal, will be at least one kind of kimchi. I remember a colleague once saying, "nice like rice, icky like kimchi." I couldn't comprehend the sentiment. Kimchi is one of the world's great fermented foods. I routinely eat it as an accompaniment all kinds of foods, or just as a midday snack all on its own. 

For many Americans, kimchi means cabbage. But kimchi comes in many forms, made spicy or not, and from cabbage, radish, cucumber (like the stuffed cucumber kimchi, pictured on the book cover), greens, green onions, celery and more

But not all banchan are fermented and spicy. Some are meant to be more refreshing, like marinated bean sprouts or tender spinach marinated with black sesame oil and rice wine vinegar

Hungry to bring the flavors of Korea to your own table? Lucky for you my pal Karen Solomon (famously of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It) has a new e-book out that will get you rockin' the banchan in no time. 

In Asian Pickles: Korea:, the second in a series of Asian pickle e-books (starting with Asian Pickles: Japan; China is already available for preorder) she serves up a veritable feast of kimchi and other banchan, with straightforward recipes that don't intimidate. And guess what? I've got one copy to give away. 

Simply scroll down and leave a comment, telling of a mouth-watering Korean meal experience. I mean it: I want my mouth to water.

And here's a way to get more chances to win: Click here to tweet about this post, or pin this post on Pinterest (make sure the book cover image gets pinned so we can find it). All comments, tweets and pins must be logged by midnight PDT, Friday, April 26.

Congrats to Frank Jones, our lucky commenter!

Still need more convincing? Fine, here's the recipe for the stuffed cucumber kimchi so gorgeously gracing the cover of the book:

Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi (Oi-sobagi kimchi)

Recipe by Karen Solomon

Cook time: About 1 1/2 hrs

Yield: 14 stuffed cucumber bites


  • 3 lbs English hothouse cucumbers or thin-skinned salad cucumbers on the slim side (not pickling cucumbers)
  • 2 Tbsp fine sea salt
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and trimmed
  • 2 green onions, roots and tough tops trimmed and outer leaves removed
  • 9 cloves garlic
  • 2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 c. Korean chile flakes
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 oz. dried shrimp (optional)

Cooking Directions

  1. Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard the ends. Cut the cucumbers into fourteen 2-inch sections. Stand each piece upright on a work surface and cut an X shape halfway (1 inch) down into each piece, leaving the bottom inch intact. Stand the cukes up in a shallow dish and sprinkle the salt on their bottoms and tops and down into the X cut. Let them sit upright for 1 hour to leach out some of their juice.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Dice the carrot and the green onion. You can do this by hand, or by cutting them into chunks and pulsing about 20 times in a food processor. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  3. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, ginger, chile flakes, fish sauce, sugar, and dried shrimp. Puree into a paste, pausing to scrape down sol- ids from the sides. This should take about a minute or so. Once smooth, fold the paste into the carrots and the onion.
  4. Drain any liquid that has pooled in the bottom of the cucumber dish, and lightly pat the cucumbers dry with a paper towel or kitchen cloth. Stuff about 2 to 3 tea- spoons of the filling into each cucumber, working to get as much into the center as possible, and mounding a dollop on top.
  5. These pickles are ready to eat immediately, or they can be served at room tem- perature for about 12 hours. Unused portions should be refrigerated and eaten within 3 days.

I lived in China for two

I lived in China for two years. As you can imagine the food was spectacular, to say the least, but my favorite restaurant was this tiny (and I mean tiny! It could only seat 6 people at at time) Korean restaurant that we accidentally stumbled upon one day. My Chinese was horrible so I simply told the owner to bring out whatever she thought would be best. I couldn't tell you what my main dish was, but the kimchi! Oh, the kimchi! It was so memorable that I went back to that place, once a week for TWO YEARS to eat that spicy gem. I tried to bribe the lady to let me buy a pint of it from her but she refused. I seriously still dream about it, I've never had kimchi that good since. And it was 7 years ago.

When I was a kid, one of my

When I was a kid, one of my best friend's mom used to make amazing kimchi!


Where to begin?! I've been lucky to have so many mouth-watering Korean meal experiences (and I even made oi-sobagi kimchi and pechu kimchi with friends when I lived in Seoul!). But one of my favorite Korean meals has to be this $3 lunch of rabokki that I found in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Rabokki is basically fresh, eggy ramen noodles drenched in a spicy tteokbokki chili sauce, served with perfectly chewy tteokbokki (long cylindrical) rice cakes, savory soft thin fish cakes, possibly onions, and-- if you're lucky-- one hard-boiled egg.

I had this (totally non-fancy comfort-food) dish once, fell in love with it, and then kept mistakenly ordering the WRONG thing instead for a while, until I realized my mistake.... Tteok-ramyon is tteokbokki rice cakes + ramen, in a ramen noodle soup, while Ra-bokki is ramen + tteokbokki in chili sauce on a plate. I'm so glad I now know the difference!

Summer kimchi

My favorites are the summer kimchis and namuls. This summer I am trying for yellow melon kimchi and watermelon kimchi and then hamcho when it comes into season. Apparently I am the only person my coworkers know under 60 or 70 making them. Little bit nervous.


There is a long strip of korean restos about 40 minutes outside of seattle and they are all good. The best way to go is with a group and share as the food crawl takes place. It is fascinating how different each places array of pickles are.

Homemade Kimchi

A friend of mine invited me to see how her grandma made kimchi. I must say that I'm not a big fan of kimchi, as the ones I've tried before were too pungent and the cabbage's texture felt odd. Thankfully, my position about it was about to change. Her grandmother, with great patience and dedication, made the kimchi in such elegant and beautiful way that it brought tears to my eyes. She spoke very little English but tried to show me how to do it. She was welcoming in every for and manner. We tried her kimchi, just a couple of days later after it fermented and I was stunned. The flavors were so crisp and delicate that made me love kimchi immediately. After that, I try to make my own. I felt so blessed for being able to learn such a beautiful tradition from such a wonderful woman.

I've always loved kimchi and

I've always loved kimchi and other pickles, but when I was pregnant I could not get enough of it—I ate kimchi almost every day!


I love Korean food, and have been so happy to see it becoming more popular these last few years. I love making Pa Jun, which is like a scallion pancake, topped with a ton of (homemade) kimchi. This book is on my wish list, I'd be a happy girl if I won!

Had a friend I worked with

Had a friend I worked with several years ago, she made homemade kimchi. For some reason I was the only one at work who really appreciated her effort. The one I wish I had the recipe for was a sweet spicy carrot based one, just makes my mouth water to think about it!


A few years ago I volunteered at an organic farm in Lexington, KY. Near the end of the season we had lots of Napa cabbage that no one seemed very interested in. I took a bunch of it and made two five-gallon crocks full of Kimchi. I shared the results with a bunch of people at the farm and beyond. It was great fun!

The Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi sounds really good! Can't wait to try that recipe.


Congrats, Frank -- you're the lucky commenter!

I have no mouthwatering

I have no mouthwatering recipes, because I've never had kimchi before. :) But I'm working on introducing more fermented foods to my family and want to make kimchi.

Would love to try more

Would love to try more kimchis!

When visiting Kukje, and loading up on banchan, the checkers sometime ask if I'm having a party or buying for a large. Nope, all for me :)


Yum! I'm a kimchi freak like you. I throw it on anything I can think of. Pretty funny since when I was a kid and my mother would open a fresh bottle and eat it on rice I would shrink in disgust. What was I thinking?

If I could find the gateway pickle to introduce my kids to kimchi, I'd be in heaven. Will give this stuffed duke recipe a try. Thanks for sharing.

my daughter prefers nappa

my daughter prefers nappa cabbage water kimchi (the clear kind, no chili powder paste)and pickled garlic to any other kind. When I'm making kimchi fried rice, then I use the red one and she doesn't care. She's been eating water kimchi since she was about 8 or 9, the red stuff gives her a tummy ache unless it's cooked. Give it time, in my family nobody gets full-on spicy until about 7 years old, and I know some kids turning 16 who still don't like it.

The Kitchen Floor

Growing up I did not have a close relationship with my biological father. The language barrier was the obvious cause for the quiet moments in our home; however, we were both such private people I don't think it would have mattered even if I spoke Korean fluently. I don't recall many conversations but I do remember the food. He was, and I'm sure still is, a great cook. My childhood memories are few and far between but I do remember his homemade kimchi. I remember the extra-large stainless steel bowls on the kitchen floor, old kimchi jars from the Korean market ready to be filled, the fresh green cabbage, and the salt. I remember the crunch, the spiciness, and the coolness of his culinary masterpiece.

As a Korean, I am a bit embarrassed to say I do not embrace my ethnic background as much I should but I will make a conscious to change that! Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget where you came from when you’re so focused on where you’re going.

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