Korean Spicy Cucumber Salad, also known as oi muchim, is the spicy, salty, tangy, and subtly sweet side dish you won't be able to stop making and eating. With only a few ingredients, this recipe is simple and quick! Shall we?
- What is Oi Muchim?
- Is Oi Muchim the Same as Cucumber/Oi Kimchi?
- Ingredients You Need for Oi Muchim
- What Kind of Cucumbers for Oi Muchim?
- Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Instructions for How to Make Oi Muchim
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment
- Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
- Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Oi Muchim
- Oi Muchim, Korean Spicy Cucumber Salad Banchan Recipe
What is Oi Muchim?
Oi muchim is a Korean spicy cucumber salad, one of the many Korean side dishes known as banchan. It is a simple dish of sliced cucumbers dressed with a spicy, salty, slightly sweet sauce.
Is Oi Muchim the Same as Cucumber/Oi Kimchi?
Though they're both Korean dishes of cucumber seasoned primarily with gochugaru, garlic, and a few other ingredients, Oi Muchim and oi kimchi are decidedly different.
Oi Muchim is a salad, made not too long before serving and eating. It is fresh and crunchy.
Oi kimchi, also called oi sobagi, on the other hand, is a type of kimchi, which means it's made with the intention of letting it ferment over a few days. It may also include a few other seasoning ingredients like fish sauce to help with the fermented funkiness. Oi kimchi is also crunchy, but more like a pickle crunchy.
Ingredients You Need for Oi Muchim
- Oi Muchim sauce which is made of
- Soy sauce or tamari
- Green onions
- Rice vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
What Kind of Cucumbers for Oi Muchim?
Persian or English Cucumbers
Any thin-skinned, "seedless" cucumber like the small Persian cucumbers or the longer English cucumbers work for this Oi Muchim recipe. My personal favorite is the small, Persian cucumbers, which I get from the local farmers market, or organic at the grocery store. I have also seen similar small cucumbers at regular grocery called "baby cucumbers." They work as long as they have a lighter, thinner skin
Korean cucumbers are an actual variety of cucumber with its own distinct taste and texture that was developed in South Korea. On average, Korean cucumbers are longer than Persian and even conventional cucumbers, and about as thin as Persian cucumbers. They skin is thin, lighter in color with an "ombre" effect from green to white, and has small flat bump or spikes. The flavor is milder and sweeter, and the seeds are not very noticeable. You can find Korean cucumbers in Korean and Asian grocery stores. If you have access to them, they are great for Oi Muchim!
What does not work as well are dark, thick-skinned conventional cucumbers with large seeds. If those cucumbers are the only ones you can find, and you're really craving that garlicky spicy sauce, you can use regular cucumbers, with these tweaks:
- Peel the cucumbers completely
- Slice them in half lengthwise
- Scrape out the seeds with a spoon, the way you'd remove seeds from a cantaloupe or honeydew melon
- Proceed with chopping and the rest of the recipe.
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Gochugaru: Gochugaru is a bright red Korean chili pepper powder made from a specific variety of Korean chili pepper. Its heat level ranges, but it is generally considered a medium spicy chili powder. Look for gochugaru that is made from Korean peppers that are sun-dried. You can find gochugaru in Korean grocery stores like H-Mart and other Asian grocery stores. I have also seen some independent, new-ish spice companies like this and this at Whole Foods. This organic brand and the one in the photo above, purchased at HMart, are currently what I have in my pantry.
- Soy sauce or tamari: Tamari is Japanese-style soy sauce brewed without the use of wheat so it is gluten-free. If you are not sensitive to wheat, the two are essentially interchangeable, though tamari has a slightly high-toned tartness to it. I use this brand, which is organic. For most soy-based products (soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, etc), try to buy organic or non-GMO, since soy beans are one of the crops that are more often sprayed with harmful weed-killing chemicals.
- Rice Vinegar: I use this brand organic brown rice vinegar. If you don't have rice vinegar, use any other light/mild vinegar or even lemon/lime juice. Do not use distilled white vinegar, which you should only ever use to de-scale your coffee-maker.
- Sesame oil: Use toasted sesame oil, which is dark brown and adds a nutty, umami fragrance to the vinaigrette. I use a non-GMO toasted sesame oil, this one is organic!
- Sesame Seeds. Sesame seeds add texture and when toasted, a layer of umami in addition to the toasted sesame oil. You can buy sesame seeds plain or toasted. Make sure the seeds are toasted. If they are not toasted, toss them in a hot, dry skillet over medium heat for about 90 seconds or until they are fragrant.
- Onions, garlic, green onions and all other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market.
Instructions for How to Make Oi Muchim
Making Oi Muchim is pretty easy, and you really only have to spend the majority of your time waiting for the cucumbers and onions to drain and soak!
Slice cucumbers crosswise ¼-inch wide. You can slice them into rounds, half moons, or on the bias, just make sure they are all the same width.
Place the sliced cucumbers in a bowl, toss with salt, and let sit for at least 15 minutes, up to 2 hours to draw some of the water out of the cucumbers.
Place the sliced onions in a bowl of ice cold water and let them soak to leach out the onion's "bite."
While the cucumbers and onions are draining, combine gochugaru, soy sauce or tamari, minced garlic, green onions, rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, sesame oil and sesame oil in a small bowl.
Taste. By itself, the sauce should be saltier, spicier, and sweeter than is comfortable for you. Add more salt or sugar if needed. If it tastes way too salty or sweet, add filtered water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Drain the cucumbers and onions. Rinse the cucumbers with fresh water. Pat the cucumbers and onions as dry as possible with a clean kitchen towel
Toss cucumbers and onions with the sauce in a bowl. Transfer dressed cucumbers and onions to shallow serving bowl.
Transfer to serving or storage bowl. Pour any remaining sauce over the cucumbers.
Pro-tip: The amount of ingredients for the spicy sauce make about ⅓ cup, which fits this specific recipe for Oi Muchim. But I highly recommend scaling up to make triple the amount of the sauce! Use the amount you need for the Oi Muchim, then store the rest in am airtight glass jar in the refrigerator. The sauce is great as an all-purpose spicy dressing over greens, grains, or even dip for fresh vegetables!
Substitutions and Variations
If you have trouble finding any of the ingredients for this recipe, here are some suggested substitutions and variations:
- Cucumbers - If you can't find Persian cucumbers, look for English hothouse cucumbers. They are the long, skinny ones, sometimes individually wrapped in plastic. If you can't find those, you can try conventional cucumbers. Just completely peel off the thick dark waxy skin, halve them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.
- Gochugaru. Gochugaru is chili pepper powder made from a specific variety of Korean red chili peppers that are grown almost exclusively in Korea (for now), sun-dried, and ground into powder from coarse to very fine. If you cannot find gochugaru, you can substitute a red chili pepper powder that is medium heat, more fruity than earthy, with a subtle smoke like Aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper (spicier!), and paprika (ranges from mild to spicy).
- Soy sauce/tamari - Substitute any kind of alternative soy sauce like coconut aminos/liquid aminos in the same amount.
- Sweetener - You can use an alternative sweetener like stevia/erythritol that's similar to granulated sugar in the equivalent sweetness amount. If you want to use a natural sweetener like agave, honey, or maple syrup, feel free, though the flavor of the final dish will be pretty different.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe. However, that's not to say there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make it a LOT easier to get Oi Muchim from your fridge to your fork (or chopsticks!).
- Chef's knife, my workhorse
- Japanese mandoline, for faster uniform slicing
- Wooden cutting board, oversized for all those cucumbers
- Glass mixing bowls for draining cucumber and making sauce
- Mini ¼-cup liquid measuring cup to save the cucumber juice if you're into that kind of thing
- Mini whisk
- Glass storage container with airtight lids, perfect size for storing the Spicy Sauce if you make it in advance, or the final Oi Muchim
- Glass Mason jars
- Mason jar lids that are better than those horrible 2-piece metal lids
Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
You can make the Oi Muchim spicy sauce up to three in advance. Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and toss with freshly prepped cucumbers and onions when ready to serve!
You can prepare and salt the cucumbers up to 4 hours in advance. The final dish will actually taste even better with that extra drainage time.
Store leftover Oi Muchim in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to two days, though they will begin to lose a lot of their fresh crunch and become more pickled.
This recipe does not freeze.
Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Oi Muchim
This recipe as presented is:
- 100% plant-based suitable for vegans
- gluten-free, if you use tamari or other gluten-free soy-like sauce
Translation and How to Pronounce Oi Muchim
The Korean word is 오이무침. "Oi" is the Korean word for cucumber, and "muchim" roughly translates to "seasoned."
Pronounce oi like "oy," rhymes with soy.
Pronounce muchim like "moo-chim." The second syllable kind of rhymes with "Tim."
More Crunchy Cucumber Recipes
- Spicy Cucumber Avocado Salad
- Din Tai Fung Spicy Cucumbers copycat, similar but different
- Tzatziki, Mediterreanean yogurt and cucumber dip
More Banchan and Korean Side Dishes
Oi Muchim, Korean Spicy Cucumber Salad Banchan Recipe
- 1 pound Persian or other thin-skinned cucumbers
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (pole-to-pole)
for Sauce (makes approximately ⅓ cup)
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 green onion, green part only, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1-3 teaspoon granulated sugar depending on personal preference
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Prepare Cucumbers and Onions
- Slice cucumbers crosswise ¼-inch wide. Place the sliced cucumbers in a bowl, toss with salt, and let sit for at least 15 minutes, up to 2 hours to draw some of the water out of the cucumbers.
- Place the sliced onions in a bowl of ice cold water and let them soak to leach out some of the onion's "bite."
Make Spicy Sauce
- Combine soy sauce, gochugaru, minced garlic, green onions, rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, sesame oil and sesame oil in a small bowl.
- Taste. By itself, the sauce should be saltier, spicier, and sweeter than is comfortable for you. If it tastes way too salty or sweet, add filtered water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Assemble Oi Muchim
- Drain the cucumbers and rinse the cucumbers with fresh water. Drain the onions. Pat the cucumbers and onions as dry as possible with a clean kitchen towel.
- Toss cucumbers and onions with the sauce in a bowl. Transfer dressed cucumbers and onions to shallow serving bowl.
- Pour any remaining sauce over the cucumbers.