When I posted the northern Chinese celery salad a few weeks back, my friend Yun Ho commented that he wanted to send me this Korean hot-weather soup recipe. Yun Ho is an avid cook who lives in Seoul, Korea. We correspond about Vietnamese and Korean food on a regular basis. He and his wife put together this refreshing soup recipe for ohyi miyuk naeng guk (pronounced “o-yee mee-yuck naeng gook”) and emailed it last week.
I made some slight tweaks by adding wakame seaweed, which naturally thickens things a tad and lends extra umami. The result is an addictively good no-cook summer soup. It’s akin to a Korean gazpacho. Seriously. And, you can keep it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
I asked Yun Ho for the back story on this Korean soup and he dug up this information:
The first mention of Naeng (冷) Guk (Naeng is Chinese word for 'cold' and guk is purely Korean world for 'soup') can be found in one of Chinese poems written by Koryo Dynasty poet, Lee Gyu-Bo, (1168-1241). Back then it used to be called Chang (暢) guk (meaning 'clear day' because it is so refreshing) and it refers to the use of miyuk, cucumber and vinegar.
Since Korea is surrounded by sea, there is an abundance of wakame and cucumbers were seasonal vegetables in the old days from June to August. Back then, people didn’t have ice or refrigerators so they used ice-cold deep well waters to make the cold soup. This is how our ancestors kept themselves cool during the hot summer days. Many people consider this a typical Seoul region food but there is no definite historical reference to this dish.
Nearly black colored dried kombu and wakame seaweed are sold at Asian markets and health food markets. Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets have great selection. The seaweed return to their camouflage green colors when left to soak in water.
For the Korean red pepper powder (gochugaru), head to a Korean market or Chinese market with a strong Korean clientele. You can sub a coarsely ground dried chile (think the texture of Kosher salt). Or, try 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of a moderately hot chile powder, such as hot Spanish paprika. The Korean gochugaru (used for kimchi) will taste the best. Yun Ho loves Korean MSG salt and it does produce a nice soup. You can use kosher and finesse it.
Chilled Seaweed and Cucumber Soup Recipe
Ohyi Miyuk Naeng Guk
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
- 1/2 ounce dried wakame seaweed
- 12 to 16 square inches kombu dried kelp seaweed
- 6 cups filtered or spring water
- 1 small English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into matchsticks (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1/4 mild onion, such as Vidalia or Sweet D (optional), cut vertically into thin half moons
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Korean or Japanese soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar, or 2 1/2 teaspoon regular white sugar
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed with a garlic press
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Korean red pepper powder (gochugaru)
- 1/2 to teaspoon MSG salt or kosher salt
- Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- In a pot or glass or plastic storage container, soak the dried wakame and kombu in the water for about 2 hours, or cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove and discard the kombu. Strain the soup into a bowl to reserve the liquid, keeping it in the fridge. Transfer the wakame to a bowl. Add the cucumber, onion (if using), rice vinegar soy sauce, garlic and Korean red pepper powder. Stir and marinate for about 30 minutes.
- Add the seasoned vegetables to the reserved soaking liquid. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, then season with the salt of your choice. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with a sprinkling of sesame seed. Invite guests to add ice cubes as needed to ensure that the soup remains cold.