Korean Cucumber Salad

Korean Cucumber Salad
Korean Cucumber Salad

This Korean cucumber salad, Oi Muchim, is a traditional banchan dish that can be found on dinner tables all across Korea. Banchan is the collective term for a spectacular variety of side dishes that are served at every meal; the banchan most Americans are familiar with is kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage dish that has been seen on everything from omelets to tacos. This simple banchan is a quick and easy pickle that adds fresh crunch to a meal and provides brisk contrast to fatty dishes, so it’s great to eat with heavier foods.

Since this dish consists of cucumbers and seasoning, it’s important to treat them right, from the beginning. Slice the cucumbers thin; this allows the marinade to permeate fully through the slices for maximum flavor. Salt the slices, and don’t try to shave off some prep time and skip this step. Salt is necessary for its ability to draw out the copious amount of liquid that’s locked in the cucumber’s cells so it can drain away. Once the cucumbers have been salted and allowed to sit, pat them dry with paper towels. With the water removed from the cucumbers, the cell walls are empty and ready to soak up all the marinade like a crunchy green sponge.

We chose English cucumbers because they are the easiest to work with, with their thin skins and seedless interiors. If you cannot find English cucumbers, Persian or Kirby cucumbers would be acceptable substitutes. You should avoid the standard cucumber, which has a very thick skin that’s often waxed, and an interior filled with watery seeds.

Oi Muchim will only stay crisp for a day or two, so don’t make a large batch unless you’re feeding a lot of people—or you really love spicy cucumbers. We paired this dish with our Korean Chicken Wings, to cut through the rich, ginger-sweet chicken skin, which we spiced up with our Gochujang, a classic chile pepper paste. But don’t feel like you need to reserve this for wings; Oi Muchim goes well with just about any meat, so try them with short ribs or classic Korean bulgogi. Add these cucumbers to wraps or tofu tacos, or just sit back and enjoy them on their own.

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1. Thinly slice cucumbers into rounds and distribute salt evenly over them. Place in a colander and let sit for 20 minutes to draw out excess water.

2. Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until sugar dissolves.

3. Pat cucumbers dry with paper towels.

4. Pour mixture over cucumbers and stir gently to coat.

5. Let cucumbers absorb flavors for at least 10 minutes and serve.