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.