Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Saengchae)

cucsaladpBack to Korean cuisine! With its refreshing subtle flavours cucumber has endless serving or cooking possibilities. Thanks to it high water content and almost zero calorie count, it is also one of the best weight-controlling allies I know. This recently discovered Korean spicy salad is one more fantastic dish I am proudly adding to my collection of cucumber recipes. 

I found this salad in Hi Soo Shin Heppinstall’s Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen, one of the biggest gems in my culinary library (Stir-Fried Pork Loin, Mung Bean Sprouts Salad or Kimchi Soup are other amazing dishes realised thanks to the same fascinating source). I have seen several Korean cucumber salads on the web, but this one has particularly attracted my attention, first because of the paper-thin cucumber slicing and, most of all, with the presence of walnuts, regularly used in Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall’s dishes. Having used walnuts in some other Korean dishes (such as Cold Bibimbap), I think that apart from the crunchiness, their slight astringency adds an invaluable touch to the typically Korean hot and sweet flavours’ combination. Even though the author suggests almonds as a replacement for walnuts, I would not advise it (unless you hate walnuts, of course).

If you look for other cucumber serving ideas, you might like these:

Cucumber Stir-Fried with Chicken

Cucumber Stir-Fried with Chicken

Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)

Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)

Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)

Cucumber Fried with Perilla (Shiso)

Pickled Dill Cucumber

Pickled Dill Cucumber

Moomins' Pickled Cucumber Salad

Moomins’ Pickled Cucumber Salad

Kyuuri no Kyuuchan (Jap. Cucumber with Soy Sauce and Ginger)

Kyuuri no Kyuuchan (Jap. Cucumber with Soy Sauce and Ginger)

Feta, Apple and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt

Feta, Apple and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt

TIP: This salad can be served straight away, but it is at its best the following day (the flavours develop and the cucumber becomes slightly pickled), so it’s best to prepare it in advance.

Special equipment: a mandolin is very handy to obtain paper-thin slices

Preparation: 20 minutes


1 big long cucumber (or the equivalent in shorter cucumbers, weighing about 500 g/about 1 lb)

1 teaspoon salt


4 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon rice wine (I have used sake)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

4 tablespoons of chopped white and light green parts of green onion

2 walnut kernels, finely chopped

1 heaped teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1/2 small clove garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Korean chilli powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon finely chopped Korean parsley (I have used shiso/perilla leaves which have nothing in common, but they pair well with cucumber)


(chilli threads for decoration)

If you use a big long cucumber, cut it horizontally in two and then slice thinly with a mandolin (you should obtain paper-thin transparent slices).
If you have short cucumbers, don’t slice them horizontally, but simply slice whole.

Put the cucumber slices in a bowl, sprinkle some salt and mix well with your hands.

Leave them for 15 minutes.

Wrap the sliced cucumber(s) into paper towels and squeeze out as much water as you can.

Put the cucumber back to the bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients.

The salad can be served at once, but it’s best chilled (the author suggests chilling it overnight).

26 thoughts on “Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Saengchae)

  1. A_Boleyn

    So many healthy veggie dishes … I really wish I liked cucumbers more. :)

    Actually I WILL eat it in sushi rolls like the ones I had today. My nephew came over for a visit at noon, starved as usual, and gave me 15 minutes to throw on something presentable and then we went out for a moderate amount of sushi. By moderate, I mean not so full that I can have some dessert, ice cream. Which meant a ball each of mango and green tea for me, and a ball of red bean and tempura banana with chocolate sauce for my nephew.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Banana tempura? It sounds very very unusual… I never buy cucumber maki sushi because they are ridiculously expensive for the cheap filling, but I do prepare cucumber and avocado maki sushi at home. They are delicious.

      1. A_Boleyn

        My nephew took a picture of the banana dessert for me as it’s not one of my favourites but I forgot to have him download a copy to my hard drive. I’ll have to email him to send me a copy so I can post it before he leaves town.

        By the way, I finally made a Korean dish. You’ll laugh when you see what it is. Speaking of Korean dishes, have you ever seen the Korean cooking You Tube web site by Maangchi? I’d be interested in your opinion.


        1. Sissi Post author

          I am glad you have started to discover the Korean cuisine. I have seen your cute seaweed snacks (actually I have commented on your post even before seeing this comment here 😉 telepathy I guess). Yes, I know Maangchi. I like her blog a lot and she has very good recipes. I have even posted here one of her recipes: http://www.withaglass.com/?p=15578 (Korean rice cakes in a spicy sauce), but I have also made some other of her recipes (not posted yet). The rice cakes are amazing… Luckily I don’t have access to them here (I have to go for a 90 min car ride) because I would eat them every day. They have a consistency similar to gnocchi, but even chewier…yummy!
          By the way, when you buy gochujang (Korean cuisine is not Korean without it… and it keeps for ages), I have added a new page on my blog (upper menu) “what to do with…” and there is a subpage with gochujang recipes. I think gochujang is as versatile as soy sauce. I use it everywhere.

  2. Eva Taylor

    The paper thin slices are beautiful! I must remember to slice my cucs this way for my Hungarian cucumber salad. I love the addition if walnuts, wondering if they get soggy over time? Will definitely try this salad when we get back to the city, the flavours sound amazing together.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Eva. They do get a bit softer, but they are still the only “tough” part here and as I have said, the important part -for me – is their astringency. Perfect with cucumber and this seasoning.

  3. elisabeth@foodandthrift

    What a coincidence, Sissi! Just yesterday, I came across an Asian cucumber salad, on Pinterest, and saved it, since I have all the ingredients for it, and keep sesame seeds, both white and black in my freezer. In that particular recipe, they add soy sauce, along with the sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sugar. I love both versions, but I would certainly omit the walnuts (did I read it right?)…just can’t picture that in Asian recipes!
    To me, these kind of yummy cucumber salads, just like the Greek Tzatziki, I love, love, to have it on hand, ready to have as a side-salad with certain dishes!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you, Elisabeth. Pity you don’t picture walnuts because first of all, they figure in several of this woman’s recipes, also in some other Korean recipes I saw on the web; moreover, I remember my Korean neighbour used to make sweets with walnuts, presenting them as a traditional Korean sweet treat, so walnuts are definitely not a Western addition here. You would lose an important element if you skip walnuts here, in my opinion.

  4. Kiki

    Walnuts and cucumber – how unusual! Chinese like walnuts too so no wonder it is part of the korean cuisine. Lately I am addicted to those tiny little crunchy cucumbers sold as snack cucumbers. Finger size. Yummy. Are they available in Switzerland too I wonder?

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Kiki. I had no idea Chinese liked walnuts too (but then I know even less about Chinese cuisine than about the Korean one…). This author uses walnuts in several dishes, so I think Koreans like walnuts too (as I told Elisabeth, my Korean neighbour – alas she lived here only for one year – used to make delicious Korean walnut sweets too). When I prepared cold bibimbap for the first time, taken from cHow Divine blog, I realised how delicious walnuts are in the typically Korean mixture of hot & sweet flavours.
      I think I know what you mean… (the cornichon-sized, but smooth and straight?). They are sometimes sold here in supermarkets, but not often. I have never tasted them actually…

  5. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles

    Can’t wait to get my mandolin back! So cucumber and vinegar is something I eat with great frequency and enthusiasm — (I often have a little bowl going while preparing dinner… you know when you’re really hungry at dinner prep time but you don’t want to do too much damage? 😉 ) yup, anyhow, I don’t tend to dress it up like this lovely salad. I’m especially intrigued by the addition of chilli (which I love in cabbage/lime mixtures) — do you make your own chili threads?

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Kelly. Haha! You know what I do when I’m hungry while preparing the dinner and don’t want to do too much damage? I have a glass of wine 😉 If it’s red, it’s even healthier 😉
      I dry my chillies all the time, but have no idea how to make chilli threads… but it’s a good idea to check. (They cost a fortune).

  6. mjskit

    Pickled cucumber salads are just one of the many things I love about summer. They are so refreshing, tart and delicious! I love this version! The walnuts and garlic are interesting additions. I’ve got cucumbers growing in the garden so I can’t wait to make this with a fresh picked cucumber! Thanks for sharing Sissi!

  7. Joyti

    I haven’t had a lot of Korean food. I’m too afraid of fish sauces/meat. But this is vegetarian! Woo-hoo!

    It looks delicious and great for the summer. And I love walnuts.

    AND the photographs of the dish are lovely :)

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Joyti. Koreans do eat more meat than the Japanese, but there are quite a lot of vegetarian dishes too (from what I remember I use fish sauce only in kimchi making process…). Thank you so much for the compliments.

  8. Katerina

    To be honest I would take the almonds as I am not very fond of walnuts really! beautiful refreshing salad and I love cucumber during its season!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Katerina. You can use any crunchy nuts if you don’t like walnuts of course.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you, Nami. I also love shiso and cucumber together (frankly I love shiso with most vegetables and with chicken, which is my favourite meat).

  9. Debra

    Heard from a mutual friend that you were the pickling queen! Had to check out your site after she said that. Love this salad but have one question—how is Korean chili powder different? Glad I found your blog!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Debra. Welcome to my blog! Thank you so much for such kind compliments. I’m a pickling addict. I admit 😉 Korean chilli powder is not really powder, but rather very thin tiny flakes… and it’s usually medium hot (not like Indian chilli powder for example). Otherwise, it can be substituted with any chilli powder, but it’s worth testing it if you can get it.

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