[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Whether you’re chowing down on burgers, a Sichuan feast, or American or Korean barbecue, most heavy meals benefit from some bright and fresh vegetables to offset all of that richness. And when it comes to palate-cleansing vegetables, it’s hard to beat the refreshing crunch of cucumbers.

Oi muchim is a Korean banchan that shows off the best attributes of cukes. Thick slices of cucumber are massaged with salt, sugar, and gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) to season them and draw out the vegetable’s natural moisture content. The cucumbers are set aside to drain, then squeezed to get rid of excess water before getting tossed with a simple dressing of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and garlic. These marinated cucumbers hold on to the crunch and succulence of fresh raw vegetables, but pick up heat from the gochugaru along with salinity and acidity from the dressing, giving classic pickled cukes a serious run for their money.

Why It Works

  • Tossing sliced cucumbers with salt, sugar, and gochugaru seasons them while also drawing out natural moisture.
  • Draining and squeezing out excess moisture from the cucumbers allows them to absorb the simple, bright dressing.
  • This banchan can be made in advance, making it a perfect side dish for entertaining or as a refreshing alternative to classic dill pickles for asandwich accompaniment.
    • Yield:Serves 2 to 3 as a large side dish, or 4 to 6 as a banchan
    • Active time:5 minutes
    • Total time:35 minutes


    • 4 Persian cucumbers (about 10 1/2 ounces; 300g), sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
    • 1 tablespoon (8g) coarse ground gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6g) kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon (5g) sugar
    • 2 tablespoons (30ml) unseasoned rice wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon (5ml) fish sauce
    • 1 medium clove garlic (5g), very finely minced or grated
    • 3 tablespoons (45ml) toasted sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon (10g) toasted sesame seeds


    1. 1.

      In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers, gochugaru, salt, and sugar. Using clean hands, massage cucumbers, squeezing and tossing them with seasoning, until cucumber is well-coated on all sides and begins to release liquid and color of gochugaru brightens to vibrant orange-red, about 1 minute.

    2. 2.

      Transfer cucumbers to a colander, then set colander inside bowl used to season cucumbers. Cut a round of parchment paper large enough to cover surface of cucumbers, and place over cucumbers. Then place a weight on top of parchment to press down on cucumbers (canned goods, a cast iron skillet, a mixing bowl filled with water, or a Chef’s Press all make for good weights). Set aside to drain for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

    3. 3.

      Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, whisk together rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and garlic. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in sesame oil until emulsified.

    4. 4.

      Once cucumbers have drained, remove weight and discard parchment paper. Using clean hands, squeeze cucumbers to get rid of excess moisture, then transfer to bowl with dressing; discard accumulated cucumber liquid. Toss cucumbers with dressing until well-coated all over, about 30 seconds. Add sesame seeds and toss to combine. Divide between small individual serving bowls and serve, or transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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