I admit it, I have cravings when it comes to Korean food. The years of living in South Korea granted me a taste preference that causes me to want to eat anything with gochugaru every few days. Since I live in Tbilisi, I have found myself shipping boxes upon boxes of Asian ingredients to get my fix. This Korean spicy cucumber salad has been a fixture in my weekly diet because it soothes my longing for Asian food. I love this recipe because it is a very flexible side dish and just really, really tasty!
The Convenient Thing About Cucumbers
You will find cucumbers readily available in supermarkets around the world. Although different varieties of cucumbers exist, you will most likely find the pickling cucumbers that are needed for this recipe. Even with limited availability, you can easily find a dense cucumber that can act as a substitute. Sometimes the cucumber you end up using turns out to be a little bitter. You can fix the bitter taste by simply peeling the cucumbers before adding in the seasoning.
The cucumbers readily absorb the spice and other flavors so a balanced taste is key. Another consideration is the size of the cucumber. If I want to adjust the spice level of this side dish I will opt for different sizes. For a less spicy flavor, I will use bigger cucumbers. If I want it to be spicier, I will choose small Kirby cucumbers.
Tips on Fulfilling a Tasty Spicy Cucumber Salad
Tip #1 Get Salty
The recipe calls for salting the cucumbers for ten minutes. After ten minutes do not wash the salt off of the cucumbers! Simply throw them in a clean bowl with the rest of the vegetables.
Tip #2 Load Up On Veggies
Experiment with your added vegetables. My recipe calls for garlic, carrots, and green onions, but you can readily add white onions, mustard greens, garlic chives, etc. As long as the cucumbers are still the main star of the dish, get creative with your additions!
Tip #3 Give It Time
Refrigerate overnight for a better flavor profile. The nice thing about Korean food is that the longer it sits in your fridge, the better the flavors get. This spicy cucumber salad is no exception. So be a little patient with yourself and save some for tomorrow.
Tip #4 Make a lot at once. Since this side dish goes with many great mains (I have used it as a side for a steak!) You can make a big batch at once and just store it in the fridge. It's an easy go-to when you are missing a vegetable side dish for dinner.
I hope this dish also becomes a regular in your weekly diet as it is for mine!
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Korean Spicy Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
- ½ carrot
- 2 medium cucumbers (preferably pickling)
- 3 stalks green onions
- 2 large garlic cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (Gochugaru)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- sesame seeds for garnishing
- Cut the ends of the cucumbers, peel every other side, then slice
- Put the sliced cucumbers in a colander and add salt, let rest for 10 minutes
- Meanwhile, slice carrots into matchsticks, chop green onions, and mince garlic
- In a clean bowl add cucumbers, carrots, green onions, and garlic
- Add sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and Korean red pepper flakes and mix with hands
- Halfway through mixing, add sesame oil and mix well
- Refrigerate for a day before eating to maximize the flavors, but you can eat this right away
- Garnish with sesame seeds before serving