Lemme tell you about a side dish that has stolen my heart: the humble, but vibrant Korean cucumber salad, oi muchim. This is a true masterpiece of tasty simplicity. Every time I take a bite of some of these spicy marinated cucumbers over some kimchi fried rice, my heart flutters with excitement, and I can't help but smile and reach back for more.
Like my absolutely essential recipe for kimchi, oi muchim is a killer component for sanchae bibimbap, and even makes an amazing condiment for vegan fried chicken glazed with Korean bbq sauce. I serve it all the time alongside homemade kimchi or as a side for my seitan bulgogi or ketoprak.
So, grab a sharp knife and explore the wonders of Korean cuisine through the delicious and oh-so-romantic simple Korean cucumber salad recipe, oi muchim. You will def. want to kiss each little cucumber slice, one by one.
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this oi muchim recipe
👉Easy and lightning-fast to make: With no cooking required, this recipe is incredibly easy and fast-as-heck to prepare. You can have it ready to serve in under five minutes!
👉Healthy: Cucumbers are low in calories, a great source of electrolytes, and high in water content, making this salad a healthy and refreshing dish. This recipe also happens to be completely gluten-free and soy-free.
👉This is a traditionally plant-based dish: While SOME people do put fish paste in their oi muchim, it’s not even really the norm. So, you aren’t doing anything scandalously untraditional by following the vegan recipe!
🌶️Ingredients and Recommended Substitutions
- Gochugaru: These dried Korean red chili pepper flakes are flavorful and medium spicy. They are essential for making kimchi, oi muchim, gochujang, and so many Korean dishes! Gochugaru comes in a few grades. I prefer the coarse grade, as the flavor is a little more robust, and the color tends to be more vibrant. You can use any grade you can find, but make sure it is unsalted. If you can’t get gochugaru, the best substitute is to de-seed a mixture of dried ancho and arbol chilies, and pulse them in a food processor, blender or spice grinder to generate coarse flakes. Regular crushed red pepper flakes can work in a pinch but they are a bit spicier, and less flavorful than gochugaru. Also, they typically have seeds. Don't use any super-fine chili powder to make this recipe. The flake-style chili is what you want!
- Sesame oil: I recommend using toasted sesame oil in this recipe. Toasted sesame oil is made by toasting sesame seeds before pressing them which gives the oil a rich and nutty flavor. A good substitute, that has similar flavor, and also has great health benefits, is perilla oil
- Korean cucumbers: Korean cucumbers, also known as Asian or Japanese cucumbers, are a type of cucumber that are shorter and thinner than traditional cucumbers. They are typically sweeter and crisper than other varieties of cucumbers and have thinner skin that is usually not peeled.
If you are unable to find those particular cucumbers for making this Korean cucumber side dish, there are a few other cucumber varieties that can work well as substitutes:
- Persian cucumbers: These cucumbers are similar in size and texture to Korean cucumbers and are often available in grocery stores. They have a mild flavor and are usually seedless, making them a great option for salads.
- English cucumbers: English cucumbers are longer and thinner than Korean cucumbers, but they have a similar crisp texture and mild flavor. They are usually seedless and have a thinner skin that can be eaten.
- Kirby cucumbers: Kirby cucumbers are smaller and crunchier than English cucumbers and have a more pronounced flavor. They can be a good option if you prefer a cucumber with a stronger taste.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this page for the complete list of ingredients and their quantities.
👉Prefer a completely not spicy cucumber salad?: Simply leave out the gochugaru if you dislike spicy food. The crisp cucumbers with sesame oil and other seasonings are still absolutely lovely and delightful as a small talking pony named Alfred.
👉Diversify your veggies: Add some shredded or julienned carrots and thinly sliced or julienned radishes to make this an even more diverse side dish.
👉Make it sattvic: Simply leave out the scallions and garlic to make this completely sattvic, and perfect for a summertime bhoga offering that your Thakurji will love!
👉Proper fire: I wrote this recipe to be mild, however I absolutely love spice so much! To turn this into a spicy Korean cucumber salad, I like to add one and a half thinly sliced bird's eye chilies (Thai chilies) to the recipe. They are just a delicious way to bring the heat!
📖 How to make perfect Oi Muchim
You wanna see how this easy, yummy Korean salad gets made? I will show you how it should look every step of the way. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Rinse the cucumbers under cold running water, and then pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Cut the cucumbers into ¼ inch (about 6 mm.) slices.
Place the sliced cucumbers in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.
Squeeze and massage the cucumbers by hand so that the ingredients become thoroughly mixed and the flavors begin to penetrate the cucumbers.
Serve the salad immediately or chill for an hour and serve the dish cold. Revenge is a dish best-served cold. Cucumber revenge is even better…
💡Here's what to serve this Korean salad with:
You can also use oi muchim as a delightful upgrade from regular cucumber pickles to put all over your favorite sandwiches like my oyster mushroom shawarma, or vegan kofta on freshly baked Arabic pita bread!
Korean cucumber salad is a popular side dish or banchan in Korean cuisine. Probably the most famous banchan is kimchi, and here is my kimchi recipe with just ten ingredients! It is often served as a refreshing and crunchy accompaniment to main meals. Often it is served with Korean barbecue, where the refreshing raw salad contrasts the cooked meats. Of course, if you are vegan, you can still make Korean BBQ!
Here are some tips for picking out the crispest cucumbers:
Look for cucumbers that are firm and evenly colored, without any soft spots, bruises, or wrinkles. Avoid cucumbers that are overly shiny, as they may be coated with wax to extend their shelf life.
Choose cucumbers that are relatively straight and have a consistent diameter from end to end. Cucumbers that are too curved or have irregular shapes may indicate uneven growth or uneven ripening which can affect their texture.
Press gently on the ends of the cucumber with your fingertips. A fresh cucumber should feel firm and not give too much. If it feels mushy or overly soft, it may be a sign of a waterlogged or overripe cucumber.
Check the color of the cucumber's skin. Ideally, it should be a vibrant green color without any yellowing or browning. However, some cucumber varieties may have naturally paler or mottled skin, so it's important to consider the specific type of cucumber you're selecting.
Smell the cucumber. A fresh cucumber should have a mild, fresh scent. If it smells sour, musty, or off, it may be a sign of spoilage.
If possible, choose cucumbers that are sold without plastic wrap or excessive packaging, as this can trap moisture and lead to a loss of crispness.
By following these tips, you can select the crispest cucumbers for your Korean cucumber salad or any other dish you're preparing.
Oi Muchim and Oi Saengchae are both Korean banchans (side dishes) made with cucumbers. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but they sometimes differ in their preparation, flavor profiles, and textures.
Preparation: Oi Muchim is a seasoned cucumber salad that is typically made by thinly slicing cucumbers and marinating them in a mixture of seasonings such as soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. It is often garnished with sesame seeds and sometimes with garlic or onions. On the other hand, Oi Saengchae is a fresh cucumber salad that is made by julienned cucumbers mixed with seasonings like vinegar, sugar, salt, and sometimes garlic, without any marination time.
Flavor profiles: Oi Muchim has a savory, slightly sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy flavor profile due to the combination of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. The sesame oil adds a nutty aroma to the dish. Oi Saengchae, on the other hand, has a fresh, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor from the vinegar and sugar, with a crisp texture from the raw cucumbers. It often has a milder taste compared to Oi Muchim.
Textures: Oi Muchim typically has softer cucumbers due to marination, or brining, and the seasonings infuse into the cucumber slices, making them more tender and flavorful. Oi Saengchae, being a fresh cucumber salad, has a crisper and crunchier texture as the cucumbers are typically julienned or thinly sliced and not marinated, allowing them to retain their natural crunchiness.
Korean cucumber salad can typically stay fresh for up 2-3 days in the refrigerator if stored properly. To store the salad you should transfer it to an airtight container or cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator.
It is important to note that the longer the salad sits, the more it will release liquid, making it softer and less crunchy. Therefore, follow these steps if you intend to make this in advance and not eat it for a day or two:
After you cut the cucumbers, place them into a colander in your sink.
Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and allow them to sit for 20 minutes. The salt will start to draw extra moisture out of the cucumbers.
Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly under cold running water until you have gotten rid of all the salt.
Dry the cucumbers on a kitchen cloth, and then mix them with the remaining ingredients.
If you follow those steps, your salad with not release as much liquid as it sits for a couple of days.
✌️Other dishes that go great with this:
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Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
- 4 Korean cucumbers or other 4-5 inch long cucumbers such as English, Persian, or Kirby
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- 2 scallion or green onions thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 4 ½ teaspoons gochugaru Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- Start by rinsing the cucumbers thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. Then, gently pat them dry using a clean kitchen towel or paper towel.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the cucumbers into slices that are approximately ¼ inch thick or about 6 mm in size.
- Transfer the sliced cucumbers into a bowl along with the remaining ingredients.
- Using your hands, give the cucumbers a gentle squeeze and massage them to ensure that all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly and the flavors begin to penetrate the cucumbers.
- You can either serve the salad immediately or chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour to allow the flavors to meld together. If you prefer a cold dish, serve it chilled.
Important note about storage:If you intend to make this salad in advance and store it for more than one day, follow these steps so that the salad doesn’t become too watery.
- After you cut the cucumbers, place them into a colander in your sink.
- Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and allow them to sit for 20 minutes. The salt will start to draw extra moisture out of the cucumbers.
- Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly under cold running water until you have eliminated all the salt.
- Dry the cucumbers on a kitchen cloth and then mix them with the remaining ingredients.