This Oyi Namul(오이나물) is also sometimes called Oyi Bokkeum (오이볶음) which literally means cucumber stir fry. When you saw the name of the dish, you might have thought – “What? Stir fry cucumbers? How can that taste good?”. But you will be surprised how good this tastes – the slightly pickled cucumbers have such a wonderfully crunchy and chewy texture. Any raw cucumber taste (that some people don’t like) is nicely smoothed out by the cooking process. Even my husband, who frowns when I give him the little bit of fresh cucumbers that go on top of Zazang Myun, ate these and thought they were ‘pretty good’.
Since I had such an abundant harvest of cucumbers this year – just from one plant, I think I harvested more than 20 cucumbers so far – I have been busy trying to eat all the cucumbers. I shared some with my neighbors of course. Then I made 2 batches of the summer soy sauce pickles, used them in salads, ate them raw with gochujang, ..etc. I remembered that I had some leftover stir fried ground beef from some Dduk Gook I made recently and then remembered how I loved to have oiy namul when I lived in Korea. Now, all I had to do was to cut, pickle, squeeze the cucumbers and stir fry them with the beef!
Prep time: 2 min (if you already have the cooked ground beef, 8 min)
Cooking time: 3 min assuming you have the beef already cooked
- 1 cucumber (Korean, English or Persian)
- sea salt for pickling (1 tsp sea salt per 1 C of sliced cucumbers)
- 2 T Korean seasoned ground beef (optional)
- quick recipe for Korean seasoned ground beef
- 1/3 lb beef ground beef
- 2 tsp soy sauce (Kikkoman)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp rice cooking wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
About cucumbers: Having the right kind of cucumber and using good quality sea salt is really is the key here. The best kind of cucumber is Korean (of course) and then English or Persian. Choose ones with as little wax on the skin as possible (using the skin adds additional texture) with the skin not being too tough or thick. If the skin is tough, that means the cucumber is too mature which often leaves a bitter taste in your mouth – which is not good.. If you can’t buy any of this variety, small pickling cucumbers will also work. If the skin is still too tough, peel the skin before you use it.
1. Cut the cucumbers into 1/8 inch thick slices. I usually don’t emphasize the thickness but it’s kind of important here because how well the cucumbers pickle will depend on the correct thickness. Too thin, and it will actually rip apart when you squeeze it later. Too thick, and it will take a long time to pickle. And try to cut with even thickness throughout so they all pickle evenly.
2. Put the sliced cucumbers in a bowl. Sprinkle the sea salt and toss the cucumbers to make sure the salt is evenly distributed. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes until the cucumbers are easily bendable without breaking.
3. You can reheat the leftover already cooked, seasoned ground beef in a pan on medium heat. If you don’t have any leftovers, just season some ground beef (use my recipe above) and stir fry it in a pan on medium high heat until the beef is all cooked.
If you like mushrooms, you can also add some sliced mushrooms to the ground beef as I did here. When the beef is nice and hot, turn the heat off and let it wait until you get the cucumber ready.
4. Squeeze out excess water from the cucumbers. You can just take a handful in your hands and squeeze the water out as much as you can (the more you squeeze the liquid out, the crisper the cucumbers will be). You can also use a cheese cloth to wring out the liquid like below:
Put the cucumbers in the cheese cloth and wrap it into a ball. Hold one end with your left hand and the ball shaped end with your right hand (if you are right handed) and twist the liquid out (like you wring out water from your clothes).
5. Add these squeezed, pickled cucumbers into the pan and stir fry the beef and the cucumbers together for 2 min or so on medium high heat. You don’t want to cook the cucumbers too long. Just long enough for them to lose their raw taste. Sprinkle some crushed roasted sesame seeds and now you have your oyi namul!
Oyi namul tastes great at room temperature so it’s another great side dish or banchan for doshirak. You should store it in the fridge because of the beef and it will keep well for days. Another way to eat the oyi namul is to make bibimbap out of it. Just mix some rice and the oyi namul with some gochujang and sesame oil and it will be another simple and quick meal.