22 July 2010

Cool as a cucumber

With the heat wave of the East Coast and the recent sultry days in California, there is no time like the present to add a side of oi muchim to your next meal.  This spicy Korean salad--literally meaning seasoned (muchim) cucumber (oi)--is an absolutely delicious, refreshing side dish, composed of cold crunchy cucumbers dressed in slightly sweetened vinegar, spicy red pepper, and roasted sesame seeds.

One of the things I love about living in California is the wealth of cultural diversity.  As a result, I've had a chance to experience a lot of great food from all over the world, right here in my home state!  However, since this microcosm of Santa Barbara that I now live in sadly has no Korean restaurants (though we do have a small Korean market, yay!), I have decided to start adding some new recipes to my repertoire so that I can keep on enjoying the delicious food of Korea.

My first attempt to make Korean food was actually way back in high school.  At that time, my family still subscribed to the LA Times, and one of their food sections had a nice feature with some tempting recipes for savory mung bean cakes and japchae noodles.  I threw myself into making those recipes with great zeal and no idea what I was doing or what the final product should taste like.  It was fascinating, but honestly I felt a little confused.  So now, with much consultation with online recipes and videos, Korean friends, and the kind ajumma at my local market, I am taking it slow, starting with a few simple recipes and then hoping to graduate to more complex dishes.  It's a fun process, and I love all that I'm learning!  Come join in the fun with me and try oi muchim!  This is definitely a great dish to start with!

This is a super easy dish to make, but if you like step-by-step photos, check them out at Beyond Kimchee, which is where I found the original version of this recipe.  I served this up with some short-grained steamed rice and slices of tasty egg roll (aka Korean omelet), but I think it'd be a great complement to any sort of grilled meat or fish as well.

Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad 오이 무침 (Oi muchim)
Serves 4

1 English cucumber, chilled
1 Tbs. grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 - 1 1/2 Tbs. Korean red chili powder 고추가루 (gochugaru)
2 tsp. white vinegar
3/4 tsp. superfine sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. roasted sesame seeds

Slice cucumber into 1/8-inch slices.  Stir together remaining ingredients and pour over the cucumbers, mixing well to coat each slice.  (Mixing with gloved hands is a great technique for this recipe, as you can really massage the pepper powder over each cucumber slice.)  Check seasoning and add salt and more chili powder to taste.  This salad is best served well chilled and soon after making so that the cucumbers retain their crunch.


jenchilee said...

nice!! i also like this website: http://www.maangchi.com/ because you can watch the lady make stuff.

erica said...

ooh yes, I stumbled across maangchi recently and find it a VERY helpful resource. :)

What are your favorite Korean dishes to eat/make these days?

Pam said...

Oh, I will be trying this! I'm new here and so glad I found your blog! I will be back to see what's cooking!

Carolyn - What Life Dishes Out said...

I am drowning in cukes, so this will be on my list of things to try...but can I use ANY chili powder or does it have to be Korean Chili Powder?

erica said...

Hi Carolyn, Korean chili powder is different from the chili powder commonly found in the US. I think the flavor of Korean chili powder is closer to cayenne, but maybe slightly less "hot" than cayenne. If you can't find the Korean style, though, it'd might be kind of interesting to experiment with other chili/peppers!

Inspired Gal {Crafts} said...

Hi Erica. I'm your newest follower. I found you on thepioneerwoman.com. Can't wait to try your linquine recipe. Cheers!

Inspired Gal Scrapbooking

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