A Year to Learn Korean Cooking: Oi Naengguk

Discover the rich and comforting flavors of oi naengguk 오이냉국. As we continue to endure the summer heat, this cold cucumber soup offers a refreshing escape. Balancing tangy and savory, oi naengguk is a soup you will want to eat all summer long.

About the South of Seoul ‘A Year to Learn Korean Cooking’ Series

If you are familiar with the series, skip ahead to learn more about oi naengguk 오이냉국. 

Many of us live in South Korea for only a year. Time flies past faster than we can imagine. At South of Seoul, we decided to create a simple series that will offer 2-4 dishes to learn each month so that when you leave South Korea you have a slew of new dishes you feel comfortable making anywhere.

This series is a collaboration with Kimchi Rednecks. In 2020, they created the first blog in this series Online Resources for Learning to Cook Korean Food. These two love to have adventures in the kitchen and share the results with their community. Be sure to follow KimchiRednecks on YouTube for other great videos about living life in South Korea.

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oi naengguk with miyeok (seaweed), cold cucumber soup

About Oi Naengguk 오이냉국

Oi Naengguk 오이냉국 is a cold cucumber soup originating from Korean cuisine. “Oi” (오이) means cucumber, “naeng” (냉) means cold, and “guk” (국) means soup in Korean. Cucumbers are a popular crop grown in Korea. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are many dishes that include cucumbers in Korean cuisine.

Korea suffers from sweltering heat during the summer. Due to the heat and humidity, Koreans often eat hot dishes to combat the heat. However, they also enjoy some cold dishes during the summer including bibim nangmyeon and bingsu. This cucumber soup provides relief with cooling and invigorating qualities. Therefore, it is especially popular during the hot summer months.

oi naengguk, cold cucumber soup,

Ingredients and Preparation

Key ingredients in oi naengguk include cucumbers, water, vinegar, and seasonings. Its light and tangy flavor profile makes it perfect as an appetizer or palate cleanser. Traditional versions of this cucumber soup also often include ingredients like garlic, ginger, scallions, and sometimes chili peppers for an extra kick.

Preparation of this cold cucumber soup is easy. Cucumbers are sliced thinly or julienned, then soaked in water, vinegar, and seasonings. The soup is typically served chilled, allowing the flavors to meld together and creating a refreshing contrast to the summer heat. Sometimes, cooked noodles (naengmyeon noodles) can be added to the soup, turning it into Oi Naengmyeon, which combines the refreshing elements of the soup with the texture of the noodles.

History and Tradition

Like many traditional dishes, the history of oi naengguk is deeply intertwined with Korea’s cultural and culinary heritage. While exact origins may be difficult to pinpoint, this refreshing cold cucumber soup has been a part of Korean cuisine for generations. Cold soups were developed as a way to provide nourishment and hydration while offering respite from the summer heat.

Historically, oi naengguk might also be tied to the broader practice of using food as medicine in Korean culture. Ingredients like cucumber, vinegar, and ginger are believed to have health benefits, especially during the hot months. In traditional Korean medicine, these ingredients balance the body’s energies and aid digestion.

Our First Experience With Oi Naengguk 오이냉국

Our first experience with oi naengguk was actually in our video. Neither of us has had this cold cucumber soup in a restaurant or elsewhere. However, I love cucumbers. Therefore, this had to be made in our kitchen. I knew it would be delicious and hoped it would also be refreshing. So, if you watch our video, you will see us making this soup for the first time and our very first taste of the it too!

Prior to our making this soup, I researched several of our favorite Korean chefs to see what flavor profiles match our tastes best. Many chefs include seaweed in the soup. Also, they may alter the spices or levels of soy sauce or vinegar. Therefore, we made sure to find a recipe that best fits us.

Hurdles in Cooking Oi-Naengguk 오이냉국

Making oi naengguk comes with its own challenges. While it is relatively simple to make, there are a few hurdles that you might encounter:

  • Balancing Flavors: In order to get the right level of tanginess from the vinegar and other ingredients, you will need to carefully consider the ingredients and amounts used. The flavors should complement each other so that they do not overwhelm each other. Also, make sure to stir the soup well before serving to distribute the flavors evenly.
  • Cucumber Choice: Typically, you will want to choose cucumbers that are crisp with thin skins and minimal seeds. The most popular choices for this soup are Korean cucumbers and English cucumbers.
  • Cucumber Texture: It is important to make sure that your cucumbers are cut to the right thickness. Aim for a thin sliced cucumber to enjoy the flavors of the soup better. (If you are not a fan of julienning the cucumbers, you can also slice them. It is your preference.)
  • Proper Temperature: This soup is meant to be served cold. Therefore, ensuring the soup is properly chilled prior to serving will keep it from losing flavor or becoming too watery. You can pre-chill your ingredients prior to serving.

One of the things that we love about cooking is experimenting with recipes. If you encounter these hurdles, take the opportunity to create a new version of the dish or look for a creative way to overcome it. Even seasoned chefs find themselves challenged in recipes from time to time. So, embrace those hurdles that could lead you to an even more fabulous recipe.

Three Cold Cucumber Soup Videos to Watch

Are you ready to tackle the challenge of making oi naengguk at home? Here are three videos to inspire you to make your own! We like to include three perspectives on any dish that we present 1) a Korean chef making it in Korea, 2) a Korean chef making it in a foreign country (provides options for substitutions), and 3) foreign residents making it while living in South Korea. These three perspectives provide a broader look at cooking the dish so that you can understand how to adopt it into your lifestyle.

Korean Making Oi-Naengguk

Korean American Making Oi-Naengguk

Americans in Korea Making Oi-Naengguk

Let Us Know How It Turned Out

When you make oi naengguk at home, be sure to leave a comment on this blog or our video. We would love to hear how your soup turned out. We love to hear about your adventures and experiences cooking at home!

Follow KimchiRednecks

If you are looking for other dishes (Korean or otherwise) or reviews of local restaurants, be sure to check out the KimchiRednecks channel. We also share a little behind the scenes in or our social media accounts on Facebook or Instagram.

Join Pyeongtaek Food & Fun

If you live in the Pyeongtaek area, share your Korean cooking experiences with us in the Pyeongtaek Food & Fun Facebook group. 

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