Looking for inspiration to do something with that huge bag of seaweed salad I bought at Costco, I learned about a Korean cold cucumber soup. It became my new Summer favorite.
Learning to play with food and becoming free of following other people’s recipes to the letter, is an exciting journey. It takes some courage, lust for experimentation and a backup plan in case your version doesn’t work out they way you wanted to. But this daring attitude can become a great skill, and is handy if you don’t have access to all ingredients listed in a recipe.
If you’re a beginner cook, changing up recipes might seem like some sort or wizardry. It’s not, but it helps to have some experience. Let me break it down to you, how I made changes to this new to me recipe for a cold cucumber soup with seaweed salad.
A little background story: I had to eat up a 2 lb | 1kg bag of ready made seaweed salad within 5-7 days after opening (here’s how I did that). I stumbled upon a dish called Oi Naengguk. It’s a Korean cold cucumber soup, sometimes made with seaweed too. It ticked all the boxes that made it the perfect dish on this Summer day:
* I could see how I could use my seaweed salad in it,
* it’s a no-cook recipe, and
* it looked like a real refresher.
Not only learned I a new favorite Summer dish, I also heard of a new to me ingredient. A double win in my book.
Oi Naengguk – a Korean cold cucumber soup
I found out about Oi Naengguk thanks to Hyosun, who calls her little nook on the internet Korean Bapsang and fills it with all kinds of great Korean dishes.
Over this Korean cold cucumber soup she explains that Oi means cucumber, and Naengguk means chilled soup. Her mother adds miyeok, a dried seaweed that’s a staple in Korean kitchens, making it a more interesting soup.
I knew I couldn’t make it the way she did, as I didn’t have all ingredients listed. But I did what I could with what I had on hand.
My no-cook cold cucumber soup with seaweed salad
Let me show you step by step what choices I made when recreating my own recipe for this cold cucumber soup.
How to replace ingredients with others
The cucumber was easiest to replace. Instead of Korean cucumber, I used the ones I always use: Persian cucumbers. Or use English cucumbers, they are pretty similar to Persian cukes. According to Hyosun, you can also make this with regular American cucumbers.
For seaweed I was insisting on using my seaweed salad. Which was flavored Korean style, according to the package. Something I only noticed when writing down this blog post. So no need to soak (nor blanching) dried seaweed for me. Which makes this cold no-cook soup come together even more quickly.
The soup soy sauce in the ingredients list puzzled me. I had never heard of it, and it turns out to be a Korean soy sauce made without wheat and is pretty salty. I already had another plan for the seasoning, so I just enjoyed learning something new.
Yes, the seasoning. My seaweed salad was already flavored. And I had a small portion of leftover marinated silken tofu that I planned on adding too. Because, why not! So no extra seasoning, except some sesame oil to finish for me.
And then there’s the ratio of the main ingredients. The great thing of this cold cucumber soup is that it doesn’t mater how much of each ingredient you use. All ingredients add flavor and texture, so you can play wit their ratio to your liking. If you like cucumber more than seaweed, add more cukes. The tofu is optional (cause totally my addition – it gives the soup a bit more body). I’d say, fill up your bowl halfway with the cucumber, seaweed salad and tofu, add seasoning and pour in enough water to make it a soup with the thickness you like.
Texture is taste
Another way to play with other people’s recipes is to change up the way you cut your ingredients. Size and shape are an important part of how you will like the dish. Taste is part texture, after all. In this dish, the cucumber is cut into matchsticks. This way, they stay crunchy.
If you grate your cucumber or slice them very thinly, they will soften pretty quickly thanks to the acid of the vinegar and the saltiness of the soy sauce. Same for the seaweed salad; you can keep the strings as is, or chop them up into smaller pieces. Play with a recipe: keep the vegetables large and crunchy, or chop them small or thin.
Another way you can affect the texture of your ingredients is in the cooking time. Or in this recipe, the soaking time. Hyosun suggests to mix all ingredients for at least 10 minutes, up to a few hours even. Then add the water. This way, the ingredients will take up all seasoning. With a longer wait, the ingredients will soften up a bit due to the soup soy sauce (salt) and vinegar (acid). I made and immediately ate my cold no cook cucumber and seaweed salad soup. I loved the crunch of the cucumber and seaweed, but that might not be the case for you.
~~ In some cases, the cooking technique you use can be changed. Learn more about how to do that here. ~~
Here’s what I did
The first time I made this no-cook cucumber soup, I started with chopping a small Persian cucumber into matchsticks. Scooped it into a bowl, with 1 tablespoon of chopped spring onion, a large heap of the seaweed salad and some of the liquid in the bag. I also had some leftover marinated tofu (from the poke bowl I had the day before), so added that too. Then I poured in enough cold water to fill the bowl, and garnished it with some sesame oil and seeds and two large ice cubes to keep it cool. The marinade was just enough seasoning to tickle my senses: salty, briny, hearty umami, and some spice.
Then I realized it was so good, not only I wanted to eat this every day, but I also wanted to share the recipe. So I made another version that is a bit easier to replicate for you.
And if you don’t have one of the ingredients I used, check back the version from Korean Bapsang, or come up with your own alternatives. Let me know in the comments below, how you made and liked this great cold cucumber soup with seaweed salad.
No-cook cold cucumber soup with seaweed salad
The starting point for this soup was to use up an ingredient I had a lot of. A big bag of Costo C-weed Seaweed Salad. It was 1 kg aka over 2 lb, and the package told me to finish it all up within 5 to 7 days after opening. So I searched for ways to get the job done. My search engine gave me the usual sites with the best SEO, but without the ideas I was looking for. Digging a bit deeper, l learned about this Korean cold cucumber soup called Oi Naengguk. Here’s my approach to it.
~~ For tips to play with your ingredients, scroll up ~~
I used for 1 person:
- 1 small Persian cucumber (about 100 gram | 3.5 oz)
- 1 T chopped spring onion (10 gram)
- 1/4 cup (65 gram) (Korean) seaweed salad *
- small block (60 gr | 2 oz) silken tofu
- 1 T seaweed salad brine
- 2 t soy sauce
- pinch of Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru)
- 1/2 T rice vinegar
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 t sesame oil ~ garnish
- sesame seeds ~ garnish
- a few ice cubes
[T = Tablespoon, t = teaspoon]
* This is moderate amount of seaweed salad, so you can opt for adding 1 or 2 tablespoons more.
Prepare the vegetables and put them immediately into your serving bowl **. Peel cucumber and cut diagonal into slices. Cut the slices diagonal into thin strips ***. Chop up spring onion until you have about 1 tablespoon. Heap the seaweed salad onto your chopping board and cut a few times to make the strings a bit smaller (optional). Cut the silken tofu into small cubes.
Mix it all. Add the seasonings and enough water to fill the bowl. Stir carefully and wait just a few minutes for the flavors to mingle.
Taste to see if you want it more salty (soy sauce), acidic (vinegar) or spicy (gochugaru).
Finish the soup. Add a few ice cubes to keep it cold, and garnish with the sesame oil and sesame seeds.
** The bowl I used could fit 3 cups or 750 ml of liquid, but I didn’t fill it to the brim.
*** Why diagonal? So they look cuter. Why diagonal the second time too? So they won’t get too long to eat comfortably.
~~ Puzzled by the way I write my recipes? Check this! ~~