Growing up, there were tons of cucumbers growing in my mom's garden during the summer, so we never really bought them at the supermarket. Given these fortuitous circumstances, I was always a bit confused about the difference between the ones growing in the backyard and the ones at the store.
Whereas the store's specimens were smooth and shiny, the ones I brought to the kitchen sink were rough and a bit prickly. I was going to chalk them up as some sort of weird variety of Korean cucumbers, but I did some research and realized that I'd been eating the pickling variety of cucumbers this whole time. Every cuke and pickle I've ever eaten flashed before my eyes as all the pieces of the puzzle fit into place. Of course they were unpickled pickles! (Just so you know, the pickling cucumber tastes great unpickled.)
They're the only ones I ever eat with gochujang, quite possibly the best Korean condiment. Gochujang is essentially a spicy red pepper paste that I usually eat doctored up with some sesame oil, sugar, and sesame seeds. I eat it in my ssam, of course, but the most simple pairing is with cucumbers. Each crunchy bite of cucumber comes dipped in a bit of gochujang. The refreshing, just green flavor is in perfect balance with the spicy blast. In the face of this morning's humidity, I cut up some oh-ee (Korean for cucumber), grabbed some gochujang from the fridge, and settled in for my quintessential summer treat.
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