Oi Muchim (오이무침) is a traditional Korean banchan or side dish made with cucumbers. It is a classic Korean dish that is easy to prepare, refreshing to eat, and can be enjoyed year-round.
Oi muchim became a favorite of mine some years ago when we were on vacation with my parents. My mom was making a Korean feast for us and as she looked around at the half-dozen or so dishes she had prepared, she remarked that we needed one more banchan to complete the meal. I thought she was crazy and told her we had plenty.
Ten minutes later as we were setting the table, I noticed the pretty dish of bright green oi muchim. When I asked her where this came from, she said she made it.
“You made that? Just now?”, I asked. “Yes”, was her reply.
It was so delicious and I couldn’t believe she whipped it up so quickly. Since then, I’ve made this saekom maekom (tangy and spicy) side dish dozens of times, whenever I felt like I needed just one more dish to complete a meal. Thanks, Mom!
Because this dish is best served fresh without any fermenting or marinating time involved, I omit any pungent ingredients like garlic or scallions. The resulting colorful and flavorful dish will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
How to Make Oi Muchim
To make oi muchim, you’ll need cucumbers, gochugaru (red pepper flakes), sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt. You can make this dish with any kind of gochugaru but a coarse grind is preferable to showcase its vibrant colors. As for salt, Korean sea salt is my first choice but any kind of salt will work in a pinch.
Kirby cucumbers are most similar to Korean pickling cucumbers but they are hard to find where I live and on the rare occasion that I find them, they don’t last very long in my refrigerator. I’ve come to appreciate the long thin English cucumber from my local Target which works just fine for this dish.
First, slice the cucumbers thinly and sprinkle them with salt, then let them sit for a few minutes to draw out excess water. After draining the excess water, gently mix the cucumbers with the rest of the seasonings. Mixing with your hand is best to minimize bruising the cucumbers.
The resulting dish is a crunchy, tangy and slightly spicy cucumber salad that pairs well with all Korean (and many other) dishes. The flavors of this dish are well-balanced and the textures are refreshing, making it a great complement to spicier or heavier meals.
In addition to being a delicious side dish, oi muchim is also very healthy, as cucumbers are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Customize it to suit your personal tastes by adjusting the spice level with the amount of gochugaru you add to the dish.
Oi Muchim: Spicy Cucumber Side Dish
- 1-3 Cucumbers (1 if long, 2-3 if small)
- 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Coarse Gochugaru (Korean chili pepper flakes)
- 2 Teaspoon Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
- 2 Teaspoon Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Roasted Sesame Seeds
Thinly slice the cucumbers. Sprinkle with salt, toss and set aside for a few minutes.
Drain any excess liquid. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Serve with a dash of additional sesame seeds.