A staple in the repertoire of Korean side dishes, this Korean cucumber salad (oi muchim) is incredibly easy to make with no cooking required. Spicy, aromatic and crunchy, watch it get devoured in seconds!
Why You’ll Love This Salad
It is incredibly simple to make and does not require any cooking whatsoever. Slice the cucumbers and marinate in a sauce that is just ingredients thrown together in a mixing bowl.
The flavours are wonderful with garlicky undertones, while the Korean gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes, make it a vibrant red while it is spicy and slightly sweet.
I’m in awe of how crazy easy this is, and yet it can be so flavourful. It’s no wonder oi muchim is one of the most popular Korean banchan recipes. This recipe is definitely a keeper and be sure to add it your list of summer salad recipes.
What is Oi Muchim?
“Oi” in Korean means cucumber, while “muchim” means to season or to coat.
Oi muchim is a Korean spicy cucumber salad. They are very popular and can be considered a summer banchan as the cucumber has a cooling effect. You will often see oi muchim served up with Korean BBQ and is particularly delicious with beef.
Difference Between Oi Muchim and Oi Saengchae?
Oi muchim and oi saengchae are one and the same Korean cucumber side dish.
The reason they have different names is that Koreans have 2 different systems of the written language. In the old days, Korean followed the Chinese alphabet called Hanja. As it was a borrowed written language, many found it difficult to use it with their spoken language.
In 1443, King Sejong the Great decided to create the Hangul, the Korean alphabet as we know it today. This simplified the language and provided cohesion between the written and spoken.
Oi muchim is a Hangul word that, as mentioned above, translates to a cucumber that is seasoned or coated. Oi saengchae actually means that cucumber that is live or raw.
Are Korean Cucumbers Different?
Korean cucumbers are typically longer and thinner. They have a great crunch, so it’s perfect for raw salads. You don’t, however, have to use Korean cucumbers. Any cucumber which is fairly long and thin will work. In fact, some people use a variety of cucumbers for the one Korean cucumber salad.
You can try Continental, Kirby, English, Persian or even pickling cucumbers.
No matter what cucumbers you use, it’s cooling effect make for excellent summer salad or a side salad to help curb heavy mains. You can try our Cucumber and Tomato Salad or Cucumber Finger Lime Salad.
Flavour/Texture: This Korean cucumber salad is slightly crunchy with the feel of sesame seeds dancing around in your mouth. The gochugaru adds the much-needed spice with sweet and smoky undertones, while the garlic and sesame oil is pungent and aromatic.
Ease: Crazy easy. Love being able to make a salad recipe is crazy easy! Slice and mix. That’s it!
Time: Although the recipe calls for approximately 40 minutes, 30 minutes is waiting for the salt to draw out the moisture from the cucumber. A crucial step in making this recipe, so don’t skip it!
Ingredients you will need to make Korean Cucumber Salad – Oi Muchim.
Korean cucumbers: The best place to buy Korean cucumbers would, of course, be in Korean supermarkets. Check out your Chinatown areas or Asian suburbs. Of course, it’s not exactly easy to come by, so you can always use any cucumber as long as they are thin and long.
You want to avoid getting cucumbers with a lot of seeds in them as what happens then is the oi muchim eventually becomes a soggy mess.
Salt: Required to draw out the moisture from the cucumbers. It’s not fool proof as the cucumber will continue to water; however, the difference is remarkable compared to not undergoing this process. You’ll be amazed how much water you can draw out with salt! It’s like a whole bowl!
Scallion or green onion: Either is fine, although my preference is scallion. Koreans tend to prefer green onions. The bulb is larger in green onions, making this Korean side too pungent for my liking.
Minced garlic: The best way to mince garlic is to use a garlic press. Otherwise, press the garlic with the back of the knife and chop until very fine.
Alternatively, if you happen to be making many Korean side dishes at one time, just get the Korean minced garlic in a jar. They are flavoursome and will save you so much time!
Gochugaru: The ever so popular Korean red pepper flakes which seem to be used for almost everything. These are sun-dried, de-seeded red peppers that have a spicy, sweet and smoky flavour. Throw it onto anything, and it instantly makes a dish taste better!
They last for quite some time, so no harm in getting a bottle. Don’t think you’re wasting it, as you’ll be surprised how versatile it is!
Sesame oil: Get Korean sesame oil. It does have a slightly different aroma and taste to Chinese sesame oil. It is lighter in colour and taste. Perfect for salads.
Sesame seeds: I always prefer to get the Korean roasted sesame seeds that come in a bottle. Easy to just shake some over any dish and saves me from having to toast my own!
Variations and Substitutions
Korean cucumber substitute: You can use any type of cucumber as long as they are fairly thin. It is better not to use the bigger cucumbers as they tend to have too many seeds.
Scallions or green onions? You can use either scallions or green onions for this recipe, although it is advisable not to use green onions where the bulb is too big as it would overpower the flavours.
Minced garlic: If you’re making a big batch of Korean banchan of varying kinds, you can purchase the Korean minced garlic in a jar. This will save you a ton of time having to mince fresh garlic by hand.
Gochugaru substitute: There is no perfect substitute for gochugaru. It is hot, sweet and smoky. Cayenne pepper and chili powder may give you the heat, but they won’t give you the sweetness and smokiness.
You can mix smoky paprika with cayenne pepper to try and emulate a suitable replacement for gochugaru.
Step by step instructions for how to make Korean Cucumber Salad – Oi Muchim.
Slice the cucumbers.
Then gently toss them through with 1 tsp of salt. The salt will draw out the moisture from the cucumber.
Place the cucumber in a colander or sieve over a mixing bowl to catch the water. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
Chop the whole sprig of scallion or green onion.
Mince enough garlic to yield 1 tsp, or you can use the Korean minced garlic in a jar.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the dried-out cucumber, scallion or green onion, and garlic.
Then add the gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds and sugar. Gently mix them together until the cucumber is well coated.
Great Mains for This Salad
Looking for recipes of how to serve this Korean Cucumber Salad – Oi Muchim?
Here are quintessential Korean recipes which can be made at home. Here were have beef bulgogi which we love eating with some hot white rice and Korean cucumber banchan. Can’t go past the ever so popular Korean fried chicken which is just finger licking good.
Japchae is one of our all time favourite noodle dishes. Easy to make and the cucumber banchan with it’s spicy kick is perfect for this meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) is made from sun-dried red peppers. Once dried, they are crushed, and their consistency ends up somewhere between a powder and flakes. Hence some people refer to Gochugaru as Korean chili powder too.
There is no perfect Gochugaru substitute, but you can certainly come close. You can try cayenne pepper mixed with smoky paprika, use chipotle powder, Aleppo chili flakes, Chile de Arbol or crushed red pepper.
You’ll find that many recommend gochujang as it is made from the same red peppers; hence it is also “gochu”. But gochujang is a paste that is also made with glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt.
It will change the dish’s overall flavour profile but is another good alternative if you think the paste will work for you.
You can keep oi muchim in the fridge in an airtight container for about 4 days. It will, however, continue to water over time, so be sure to leave all that water behind when you decant it before serving.
You can always freshen it up with more fresh scallions, sesame seeds and even a sprinkle of gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes).
To make a non-spicy version of oi muchim, simply eliminate the gochugaru. So just add chopped scallions, minced garlic, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, sesame oil and sugar to the sliced cucumber.
You can also add 1 tsp of soy sauce to give the oi muchim some extra flavour.
There you have it! A truly simple Korean cucumber salad that you can put together in no time at all. A trip to a Korean supermarket will suffice to be able to get every ingredient you need.
Easy, delicious, spicy and crunchy. Perfect side dish for Korean BBQ or simple with a bowl of fluffy hot white rice. They are also perfect salads for potluck as they are easy to transport and will hold it’s flavour extremely well.
More Korean Side Dishes Recipes (Banchan 반찬)
Korean Cucumber Salad – Oi Muchim (오이무침)
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- Slice the cucumbers and gently toss them through with 1 tsp of salt. The salt will draw out the moisture from the cucumber.
- Place the cucumber in a colander or sieve over a mixing bowl to catch the water. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Chop the whole sprig of scallion or green onion.
- Mince enough garlic to yield 1 tsp, or you can use the Korean minced garlic in a jar.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the dried-out cucumber, scallion or green onion, and garlic. Then add gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds and sugar. Gently mix them together until the cucumber is well coated.
- You can use any type of cucumber as long as they are fairly thin. It is better not to use the bigger cucumbers as they tend to have too many seeds.
- You can use either scallions or green onions for this recipe, although it is advisable not to use green onions where the bulb is too big as it would overpower the flavours.
- If you’re making a big batch of Korean banchan of varying kinds, you can purchase the Korean minced garlic in a jar. This will save you a ton of time having to mince fresh garlic by hand.
- There is no perfect substitute for gochugaru. It is hot, sweet and smoky. Cayenne pepper and chili powder may give you the heat, but they won’t give you the sweetness and smokiness. You can mix smoky paprika with cayenne pepper to try and emulate a suitable replacement for gochugaru.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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