Musaengchae or Moochae is a Korean radish salad dish that is in season during Autumn in South Korea. As we welcome the falling leaves, many Koreans welcome this scrumptious salad dish on their dinner tables too.
There are tons of delicious Korean white radish recipes that can be made such as muguk (radish soup), munamul (stir-fried and steamed radish) or the simple pickled white radish. However, this post is dedicated to one of the popular Korean side dishes, moochae.
Kimchi might reign supreme as a Korean side dish but similarly bright and flavourful Musaengchae deserves some love as well. Learn all you need to know about this classic Asian dish from our full guide below.
What is Moochae or Musaengchae?
“Mu” (무) refers to white radish in the Korean language. On the other hand, “saengchae” is a general term for salad-like dishes made out of raw vegetables. Therefore, ‘musaengchae’ or ‘moochae’, is a Korean radish salad.
It is served as a side dish since it is a nutritious complement to heavier meals with meat and oil. The root vegetable have various digestive enzymes which help in digesting carbs, fats, and proteins. Along with that, this Korean pickled radish is packed with Vitamin C, Potassium, Copper, Magnesium, and Calcium.
Therefore, whenever you’re having a dish that isn’t really the healthiest, Musaengchae can be an excellent addition to your meal.
This side dish is classically served with Korean BBQ marinated meat or bossam (boiled pork wrapped in napa cabbage). However, it is also a great condiment for wraps and can be used as a topping for bibimbap.
You may even have it with some rice. Basically, nothing can go wrong with this Korean salad!
Substitute for Kimchi
Musaengchae is perfect for days where you really want kimchi but you just don’t have it at the moment. Why? It is basically a simplified version of kimchi!
With a taste similar to fresh kimchi, it will definitely give the kick if you need a quick kimchi fix.
There are several versions of Musaengchae which vary in their taste profiles. It can be non-spicy, sweet, and sour but the spicy and salty version is the most common.
Musaengchae is meant to be eaten in small portions as it has a strong flavour. However, it is not as pungent as real kimchi because, unlike kimchi, it does not go through a fermentation period.
It is also worth noting that the Korean mu is crunchy and refreshing. They have a peppery taste with a hint of sweetness. Therefore, this Korean pickled radish is also deliciously crunchy and slightly sweet.
While it is rich in flavour and highly nutritious, it is tremendously low in calories. A serving of Musaengchae only has about 30 calories!
In order to make this spicy Korean side dish, you will only need a couple of ingredients.
Korean white radish
Many tend to confuse between the Korean “Mu” and Japanese “Daikon” radish. Despite being similar in terms of taste and texture, Daikon is longer and narrower whereas the Korean type is the opposite.
However, Daikon can certainly be used if Korean Mu is not available.
Gochugaru (Korean red chilli pepper flakes)
The red chilli pepper flakes act as a base for this Musaengchae side dish. It is smokey and the heat can range from mildly hot to very hot. You can add more of it if you prefer your dishes spicy.
One tablespoon is enough as it is salty and very pungent. Other than that, salted shrimp can also be used as a substitute for making Musaengchae. To make it vegan, you can replace fish sauce with soup soy sauce or simply add more salt into the moochae salad.
Other seasoning and garnish
- Sugar can be added to balance out the salty and pungent flavours. As a substitute, you can also use corn syrup or plum extract.
- Salt is used as a seasoning and to make sure all of the flavours are balanced out.
- Garlic is minced to add to the pungency of the dish.
- Sesame Oil adds a slightly nutty flavour to the sauce.
- Scallions: for extra sweetness, crunch and to add colour to the spicy Korean pickled radish.
Don’t have them in your kitchen? Fret not! You can easily find these ingredients in any Korean or Asian supermarket nearby.
How to make spicy radish salad
To make moochae, the process involves peeling the Korean Mu and julienning it into long sticks. The ingredients for the sauce are all mixed together in a separate bowl and then poured over the julienned radish. Then, the vegetable is evenly mixed with the spicy sauce before it is refrigerated.
Musaengchae Cooking tips
- Julienning the root vegetable is the most difficult part of the process. Therefore, you can use a mandolin slicer to julienne the radish. The Japanese mandolin slicer is sharper and easier to use than a French mandolin slicer.
- You can use the whole root vegetable if you are serving the salad to a lot of people. However, you can use only the green part of the radish if you are making a small portion. This is because the green part is sweeter than the white part of the Mu.
- For a crunchier moochae, salt the radish beforehand to draw out some water.
- It is better to use a glass bowl when mixing the salad as the gochugaru can leave a stain on plastic bowls.
- Refrigerate your moochae longer to make it richer in flavour.
How to Store
You can store your Musaengchae in an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to a week. It is to be noted that the pickled radish might get watery. This is because the longer it sits in the fridge, the more of its juices will be released.
Musaengchae (Spicy Korean Radish Salad) Recipe
- 1 pc Korean white radish
- 1½ tablespoon gochugaru (red chilli pepper flakes)
- 1½ tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 pcs scallions, finely chopped
- Peel the radish. Julienne or shred with a mandolin slicer into sticks about 2-inches long.
- Hold the white juicy sticks and gently squeeze out excess water and put them in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix gochugaru, fish sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and salt to make the sauce. Then, pour the sauce over the julienned/shredded radish.
- Using a plastic glove, mix well the radish with the sauce and add scallions.
- Cover the bowl with a lid or a wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving your Musaengchae.
- Keep the salad in a glass container to prevent staining.
- Use a Japanese mandolin slicer to shred the radish more easily.
- A little sugar can be added to neutralise the salty and pungent flavours.
- You can cover your mixing hand with a plastic bag as an alternative to plastic gloves when mixing the Musaengchae or moochae salad.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
If you are looking for a vegan version of this salad dish, KoBap Youtube channel shows a method that does not require fish sauce. Have a watch of their video recipe!
How did your Musaengchae Korean pickled radish salad turn out? Share with us your results by tagging us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks!
Next up, learn how to make Korean BBQ at home with our easy guide!