Why It Works
- Squeezing out excess moisture from the rehydrated dried radish and salted sliced cucumbers allows them to soak up the bright, spicy dressing.
- Briefly soaking sliced onion in cold water helps soften its pungent bite.
- Toasted sesame seeds help to thicken the dressing, which in turn helps it cling to the vegetables.
Mumallaengi-muchim is a traditional Korean banchan of dried radish marinated in a gochujang-spiked dressing. It highlights one of the many fundamental techniques of Korean food preservation—the annual ritual of drying vegetables in the summer sun, which prevents spoilage and allows them to be eaten throughout the cold winter months. I sometimes have romantic daydreams of old Korean ladies cutting up big radishes and drying them on mats until they’re wrinkled and dried; I aspire to become one of those ladies someday.
The best radishes for this application are moo radishes, a Korean variety that is dense and sweet with a subtle peppery bite. More widely available daikon radishes make a great alternative, as they're similar both in flavor and appearance, although daikon boast a higher water content, which is not an issue if you’re dehydrating them. While I love to dry my own radishes for mumallaengi-muchim, this recipe was developed using store-bought dried radish, which can be found at Korean supermarkets, such as HMart, or online.
To make mumallaengi-muchim, the dried radish pieces are rehydrated briefly in water to slightly soften and plump them up, which in turn allows them to soak up more of the dressing. For this version, I pair the radishes with sliced raw cucumbers and onion; the cucumbers are lightly salted and drained of excess moisture, while the onions are given a quick soak in cold water to temper their pungent bite. Once all three vegetables have gone through their pre-marinade routine, they're combined and massaged with gochugaru, which stains the vegetables bright red while blooming the chile flakes.
Next, the vegetables are tossed with a vinegary gochujang dressing that has a hint of sweetness from honey, a savory backbone from fish sauce, and a perfect vegetable-coating consistency thanks to a generous handful of toasted sesame seeds. Like the gochugaru, the dressing is massaged into the vegetables, which readily soak it up. The resulting marinated banchan has a pleasant, chewy texture from the radishes, tender crunch from the cucumbers and onion, and bright spiciness from the dressing. It can be enjoyed as a vegetable banchan at a large meal, but I also use it as a topping for a salad or chopped up as a sandwich condiment, although I'll bet you'll find yourself snacking on it straight from the fridge. Like other marinated banchan, it can be made a few days in advance, so you can easily incorporate it into your meal-planning schedule.
- 2 Persian cucumbers (about 5 1/2 ounces; 160g), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (see note)
- 1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt; if using table salt, use half as much by volume
- 1 1/2 ounces (1 1/3 cups; 40g) dried Korean radish (see note)
- 1/2 small onion (about 3 1/2 ounces; 100g), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
- 2 tablespoons (16g) gochugaru (Korean chile flakes)
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons (60g) gochujang
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce
- 2 garlic cloves (10g), finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon (4g) freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup (32g) toasted sesame seeds, plus extra for sprinkling
In a medium bowl, toss cucumbers with salt and, using clean hands, massage cucumbers until they are well coated and just begin to release liquid, about 30 seconds. Transfer cucumbers to a colander; wipe out bowl. Cut a round of parchment paper large enough to cover surface of cucumbers and place over cucumbers. 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 good weights). Set aside to drain for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, transfer cucumbers to a paper towel-lined plate and blot dry. Set aside.
Meanwhile, combine dried radish and 2 cups (475ml) cold water in now-empty bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine sliced onion and 1 cup (240ml) cold water. Soak radish and onion for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, drain radish and onion, and squeeze out as much water from the radish as possible; discard soaking water. Wipe out both bowls and combine cucumbers, radish, and onion in medium bowl. Add gochugaru and gently massage chile flakes into the vegetables, until they are well-coated and stained bright red, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
In now-empty small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, gochujang, vinegar, honey, fish sauce, garlic, and black pepper until well-combined but not fully emulsified. Stir in sesame seeds.
Add dressing to vegetables and, using clean hands, toss to combine, massaging dressing into vegetables until they are well coated all over, about 30 seconds. If serving right away, divide between small individual serving bowls, sprinkle with additional sesame seeds, and serve. If making in advance, this banchan can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to cool room temperature before serving. The dressing can also be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Persian cucumbers are less watery and more flavorful than English cucumbers, but the English variety are an acceptable substitute.
Dried Korean radish strips (무말랭이, or mumallaengi) are made by dehydrating French fry-sized pieces of moo or daikon radish. You can purchase dried radish at Korean markets, such as HMart, or online. If you own a dehydrator, you can also dry radishes yourself; cut peeled moo or daikon radish into 2 1/2- by 1/2-inch batons and dehydrate until fully dried. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The marinated radish banchan can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.