Home pickling can be incredibly fun and rewarding, but these days I’ve been way too busy to set aside time for the canning process. So when a craving hits, I’ve been making what I call instant pickles. They’re great for a quick dinner appetizer, pot luck barbecue treat, or mid-afternoon computer break snack.
I first made these 2 years ago with fresh bird’s eye chilis, but found that mincing up the chilis can be time consuming (and painful, if you wear contacts…the oil from the chilis doesn’t seem to leave my hands, even after copious hand-washings and soaking in yogurt.)
Over time I discovered these pickles are just as good with Asian chili sauce, such as sambal oelek, and much, much faster. The hands-on process takes no more than 10 minutes, and you can either serve them right away or wait to allow the cucumbers to soak up more flavor.
If you’re a fan of pickles straight from the jar, you’ll love this recipe. If you’re a fan of kimchi or other banchan, you’ll also love this.
Chinese restaurants overseas, even those in Chinatown, rarely serve appetizers. But in China, dinners at mid-range or higher end restaurants usually begin with a trail of cold appetizer dishes. You can get peanuts, tofu, turnips, carrots, radishes, mostly with a cold snappy bite to wet your appetite for the hot dishes to come. And if you’re hungry and in desperate need of food NOW, it helps to have a bunch of tasty snacks to nibble on.
The trick to making these cucumbers crisp and snappy is to drain the excess water out, by tossing them in salt and letting them sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Serves 4 as an appetizer
- 4 to 5 kirby cucumbers
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chili sauce, plus more if needed
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 medium-sized carrot, very thinly sliced
- Slice the cucumbers in half length-wise, then quarter them to end up with long wedges. Scoop or slice out the seeds, then slice each wedge into thin strips (about 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide and 2″ long, thin and short enough to pick up with chopsticks). Toss the cucumbers in salt and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix together the rice wine vinegar, chili sauce, salt, sugar, and sesame oil.
- Drain the excess water from the cucumbers. Coat with the chili-vinegar mixture. Mix in the carrot slices. Taste, and season with more salt and or/chili sauce if desired. Serve right away, or let the cucumbers sit for at least 1 hour at in the fridge (or overnight) to absorb the flavors. Serve cold or at room temperature.