When I’m eating steak, I need a side dish that doesn’t cower to the juicy slab of grilled meat. It needs to be tangy, crispy, cold, salty, spicy, and willing to coexist beautifully with rice and the steak drippings. Eating steak also has me remembering my origins.
The history behind this hankering most likely began in Argentina, where my parents married, lived, and had me before moving to the States. My father owned a small shop in one of the seediest areas near Buenos Aires. Every Thanksgiving, he tells the story about how he fed the robbers every night with sausage so that they would leave his store alone. Besides developing his business acumen Goodfellas style–grittiness is his middle name–he also learned to eat a steak properly.
The Argentines like to eat their steak with a Chimichurri sauce, which is a herbaceous condiment full of parsley, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Typical of my parents, they just replaced the Chimichurri sauce with quick kimchi, something they were more familiar in creating.
In my family, steak was always served with a side of rice and quick kimchi. It’s the one time when rice wasn’t scooped into a bowl, but mounded on a plate, butting up next to the medium rare steak that tinged the rice pink with its jus. Then the kimchi liquid would intermingle with the rice, turning it scarlet and potent. It’s one of the finest food combinations I can think of.
Quick kimchi can be made with cucumbers, Korean radishes, cabbage, and variety of other vegetables. It’s not meant to ferment, but it should be made a day ahead to achieve a bit of tang, but still maintain freshness. Right before serving, I like to break from tradition, and toss in Jicama slices.
- 12 small Persian or Kirby cucumbers (sliced on a bias)
- 2 tbs salt
- 3 tbs kochugaru (Korean chili flakes—coarse)
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 tbs minced ginger
- 1/4 onion (chopped)
- 1 1/2 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs saeujeot (shrimp paste) or Korean fish sauce
- 1/4 jicama (peeled and julienned)
- 2 tbs sesame oil
- 1 lemon
- Place sliced cucumbers into a non-reactive bowl (ceramic or stainless steel).
- Sprinkle 2 tbs of salt on them and mix thoroughly. Set aside for 1 hour.
- Rinse cucumbers well and drain. Squeeze out some of the liquid. Place cucumbers back into bowl.
- In a mixer or food processor, puree garlic, kochugaru, ginger, soy sauce, onion, sugar, and shrimp paste. Add the puree to the cucumbers.
- Add sliced jicama to the cucumbers, and mix well.
- (This can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two at this point. OR can be eaten right away. Letting it sit for 30 minutes before eating allows the marinade to soak in. )
- Before serving, add sesame oil and the juice of one lemon.
- Serve with rice and steak.
Juicy grilled steaks are courtesy of Sam.