For my Korean Sunday dinner, in addition to my main dishes of japchae and bulgogi, I made several vegetable sides. I am new to Korean food, so I made this very closely to the original recipe. To quote the original recipe, “oi means cucumber, and muchim means mixed with seasonings.” I had not bought Korean cucumbers (aka Japanese or East Asian), but I had some Persian cucumbers meant for a meal that did not happen.
When I went to the Korean market I was not able to find gochugaru. It was only after I looked more closely at my recipes that I realized my mistake. I was looking for a small jar of spice—like the ones for Japanese shichimi. The Koreans buy their chili pepper by the pound—I should have been looking for a big bag. Fortunately, I found that I had bought some on spec several weeks ago.
Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
1 Korean cucumber or 4 Persian cucumbers
1 teaspoon salt
1± Tbs. gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
1 Tbs. green onions, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1. Rinse and dry cucumbers well.
Tip: Remove half inch of the stem end from each.
Note: The stem end of the cucumber contains a bitter compound (cucurbitacin) that will spread to the rest of the pickles if you put it in with the rest as you are pickling. If you are planning to pickle your cucumbers for any extended length of time, remove 1/16 inch from the flower end as well—it has a compound that will make your pickles mushy.
2. Cut the cucumbers into ¼ inch slices.
3. Put the cucumbers into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over the cucumbers.
4. Gently toss to coat the cucumber pieces with the salt.
5. Let the cucumbers rest for at least 30 minutes.
Tip: The salt will draw off a fair amount of the moisture in the cucumbers and prevent it from diluting the seasonings.
Note: Gently re-toss the cucumbers occasionally to redistribute the brine.
6. Drain off the excess liquid by putting the cucumbers in a large sieve.
Tip: (from original recipe) “Avoid squeezing them because they will bruise.”
Note: Do not rinse the salt from the cucumbers.
7. Rinse the bowl and mix all of the remaining ingredients into a paste.
8. Return the cucumbers to the bowl and gently fold to coat each piece with the sauce.
9. Let the cucumbers meld for at least 15 minutes, before serving either chilled or at room temperature.