the appetizer:

Traditional Korean cuisine includes meat, rice, vegetables, tofu and the ubiquitous kimchi, cabbage pickled in garlic and chili peppers. Most meals are served with banchan, side dishes (like kimchi) that are as varied as they are numerous.

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Cucumber Kimchee


Iced Korean Cucumber Soup

Serves 4 to 6

This delectable dish is the perfect antidote for heatstroke. In Korea, the summer heat soars way above 100 degrees. Consequently, this tart, ice cold and uncooked soup became an extremely popular dish at my mother's parties. You prepare it in advance and then, just before serving, add the ice cubes. Stir the ice cubes around for a few seconds and you have a very cold, icy cold, much colder than just chilled, soup. The ice cubes also function to firm up the cucumbers and make them crunchy. I like the lightness of it, as it contains no cream with but a small amount of fat from the sesame oil, and the crispness of the raw matchstick cucumbers gives it a refreshing texture.

As with so many Asian dishes, this soup has great aesthetic appeal as well. The paleness of the light green cucumbers is accented by the green and white of the onions and the tan specks of sesame seeds. If you can get very fresh, unwaxed cucumbers for this recipe, then use them with the peel on for added color, taste and texture. If only waxed cucumbers are available, then you must peel them before use.

By the way, this is really a very traditional Korean soup, and this recipe is exactly the way my mother's mother made it for her. It's not surprising that such an icy, tangy soup as this would be served in Korea. The summers there can be stiflingly hot, even though the winters are bitterly cold. The Koreans are also very fond of cucumbers and include them in most of their meals, either cooked, pickled or raw. A popular version of kim chi, the Korean national dish, consists of cucumbers pickled in red hot chili powder and is quite potent indeed.

As a final tidbit, because of its crisp and refreshingly tart flavor, this soup is also known in the Western world as "Korean Gazpacho."


If the cucumbers are waxy, peel them. If the skin is thin and unwaxed, leave it on. Cut the cucumber into matchstick julienne, about 2 inches in length. To make the soup more attractive, cut the ends of the matchsticks on the diagonal.

In a large serving bowl, mix together the chicken broth, water, cider vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and white pepper. Stir in the cucumber and green onions. Chill well.

Just before serving, stir the ice cubes and sesame seeds into the soup. Taste the soup to correct the seasonings. It should be pleasantly tart and slightly salty, with a hint of sesame. If the flavorings seem too strong, then dilute with additional water, but keep in mind that the ice cubes will thin down the flavors as they melt.

©1995-2007 Katherine Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


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This page modified January 2007