Iced Korean Cucumber Soup
Another "No Flame, No Fire" Recipe
by Kate Heyhoe
Note: This is more than a Young Chef recipe: it's also a very adult-pleasing dish that can easily be made by kids old enough to handle knives safely. Kids like the ice-cubes in the soup and it makes a refreshing first course or alternative to salad on a warm day or night.
This delectable dish is the perfect antidote for heatstroke. In Texas, where I grew up, 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, and now with mine. 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 or fat, 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 and 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.
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," named after the famous Spanish tomato and cucumber soup, which is also served ice cold.
- 2 cucumbers
- 2 cups chicken broth (or use canned broth), degreased
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 4 green onions, chopped on the diagonal
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 15 to 20 ice cubes
1. If the cucumbers are waxy, peel them. If the skin is thin and unwaxed, leave it on. Slice the cucumber into matchstick pieces, about 2 inches in length. An easy way to do this is to slice thin, flat strips using the wide blade of a grater. Then, stack the strips on each other and slice them lengthwise into skinny, 1/4-inch wide strips. Finally cut these strips crosswise into 2-inch lengths.
2. Trim the "beards" off the green onions and slice them on the diagonal into 1/4 inch wide bits.
3. 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. At this point the soup will keep for several hours.
4. 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.
Serves 4 to 6.
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This is an edited and updated archive of pages originally published in 1997.
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Modified August 2007