Mu Saengchae 무생채 (Spicy Radish Strips)

In the endless world of Korean banchan, kimchi gets the spotlight (and deservedly so). But for busy people who don’t have the time nor fridge space to accommodate all that fermented goodness, here’s one of my favorite banchan that I make weekly: mu saengchae (seasoned radish strips).

Mu saengchae is a ubiquitous side dish almost as accessible as kimchi in most Korean restaurants. I love this dish because it’s easy to make with limited ingredients and it’s crunchy delicious. Also makes an excellent side dish to any protein (bossam/suyuk) and vital to bibimbaps everywhere. Here’s the recipe in its entirety, obtained over the years from restaurants that I’ve had the pleasure of working at and/or interviewed.

Ingredients:

  • approx. 1 kg daikon or Korean dish
  • 1 cup gochugaru (chili flakes)
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp saewujeot (salted shrimp)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 thumbnail piece of ginger, minced
  • 1/2 Asian pear
  • 1/2 onion

Directions:

  1. Don’t peel the radish! The skin contains valuable nutrients. Rinse and scrub under cold water to remove excess dirt or stains.
  2. Slice into matchstick pieces or desired thickness and length. To retain that extra crunch though, cut into thicker pieces.
  3. If you plan to make this in a large batch consumed over a lengthy period of time, say a month, then make sure to salt the radish. For each 1 kg of radish, roughly half of cup of coarse salt will suffice. Regular salt will work just as fine. Sprinkle salt over radish pieces and mix thoroughly by hand. If you plan on eating the radish within a week or two, you can skip the salting step.
  4. After a minimum of 30 minutes (one hour is ideal), drain excess water that’s been pulled out from the radish. The pieces should be pliable enough to bend without snapping. Then drain further by hand-pressing them. Set aside.
  5. For every 1 kg, add the following seasonings: 1 cup of gochugaru, 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 5 garlic cloves minced, 1 thumbnail piece of minced ginger, half Asian pear, half an onion, 3 tbsp saewujeot (salted shrimp), 1 tbsp fish sauce. Pear, onion, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce can be made into a paste via blender. Omit or add ingredients to your personal preference; mine is garlic and fish sauce heavy for that extra umami punch.
  6. Thoroughly mix radish and seasoning by hand until coated. Best eaten within a few weeks but can easily last a month, if salted. Ideal with meats like bossam or Korean barbecue!
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