• Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

What Is Naengmyeon: Korean Summer Cold Noodles

ByFanny Tournier

Apr 24, 2022
Naengmyeon

As the days are getting longer, they are also finally getting warmer! It is becoming near impossible to not feel excited about summer. However, one thing I often struggle with during the summer is finding new recipes to make. I often find myself making pasta salads or grilling meat and vegetables over and over again, which although delicious, can get a little bit boring and repetitive at some point. If you, like me, sometimes feel uncreative, you might want to expand your horizons a little bit and look at traditional dishes outside of your culture or comfort zone, and just try different things! If you enjoy eating cold meals and noodles, then these Cold Korean Noodles called Naengmyeon are THE dish for you.

History

As you guessed from the title of this post, these noodles come from Korea. They are particularly popular in North Korea, where they are more appreciated during the winter season. On the contrary, South Koreans prefer to eat Naengmyeon during summer to help beat the Seoul heat. It is also often eaten as a side or almost a dessert after having Korean barbecue.

Naengmyeon are chewy noodles that are made of buckwheat and sweet potatoes. They are thin and very long, which is the reason why they usually come in a big steel bowl with a pair of scissors next to it. Rumor has it that Korean people have been eating Naengmyeon since the 1300s when the Joseon dynasty began. Some researchers claim they have been invented even earlier than that. What is certain is that these cold noodles originated from Pyongyang and Hamhung, which are both located in North Korea. This meal gained popularity in South Korea after the Korean War.  

In the bowl of Naengmyeon, you will usually find a boiled egg, sliced cucumber, and usually beef, although you can make this dish vegetarian if you wish to do so. There are two types of Naengmyeon, one served in a broth and the other one with a spicy sauce! Let’s check out the recipes for both.

Mul Naengmyeon

Mul Naengmyeon
Mul Naengmyeon

In Korean, Mul means water. The name of this dish explains it perfectly. Indeed, it is noodles served in a broth. However, the difference there is with a regular soup is that this one is cold, or even dare I say, icy! In South Korea, the usual temperature during the summer range from 24°C to 30°C. However, it is also the most humid time of the year and rainfalls happen quite often, which, if you cannot stand hot weather, makes it almost unbearable. Mul Naengmyeon is literally served with ice cubes, which makes it the perfect summer dish.

The broth, usually made from beef, is also sometimes made with dongchimi, which is a broth of a variety of different kimchis. There is thus no need to miss out on this meal, even if you are vegetarian!

Recipe for 2 servings (Non-Vegetarian Version)

Ingredients

250g of beef 

1 cucumber

150g of naengmyeon noodles aka buckwheat noodles (dry)

1 teaspoon of rice wine

2 boiled eggs

1 garlic clove

2 onions

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Step-by-step guide

For the broth: prepare it one day prior

  1. In a large pan, add some olive oil on medium heat. 
  2. Add 1 chopped onion and stir for no more than 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and brown it on both sides.
  4. Then, add 1 teaspoon of rice wine, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
  5. Add 80cl of water and let it cook on medium heat for 45 minutes.
  6. Pour through a conical strainer. Keep the meat.

For the noodles

  1. Cook the noodles according to package instructions.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, prepare a big steel bowl with ice water.
  3. Once the noodles are done, pour them into the icy water.
  4. Remove the hardened fat from the broth, and add to the bowl as well, just enough so it does not cover the noodles.
  5. Add the other ingredients (beef, sliced cucumber, onion, and garlic) on top of everything.
  6. Serve!

Bibim Naengmyeon

Bibim Naengmyeon
Bibim Naengmyeon

What is the difference between Mul Naengmyeon and Bibim Naengmyeon? There are two. First of all, unlike Mul Naengmyeon, Bibim Naengmyeon are not served in a broth. The broth is only used to add some more flavors. The second difference is that Bibim Naengmyeon has a spicy twist to it. There is something about the coolness of the noodles that balances the spiciness of the sauce.

Recipe for 2 servings

Ingredients

2 teaspoons of sugar

200g of buckwheat noodles (dry)

150g of beef

1 sliced cucumber

Half an apple

2 boiled eggs

10g of chopped garlic

30g of sliced Korean radish

1 red pepper

1 teaspoon of gochugaru 

2 teaspoons of salt

10g of spring onion

2 teaspoons of rice vinegar

1 teaspoon of mustard

2 teaspoons of soy sauce

Step-by-step guide

  1. Marinate the Korean radish with 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt for at least 30mins but the longer the better.
  2. Boil the beef in water.
  3. Add the 10g of spring onion and 10g of chopped garlic to the water at low heat and let it marinate for around one hour.
  4. After an hour, remove the meat from the water.
  5. Turn off the stove, and add some ice to the broth for it to cool down.
  6. Cut the meat into thin slices.

For the sauce

  1. In a bowl, add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of mustard, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Put it in the fridge.

Finally…

  1. Slice the cucumber and apple.
  2. Boil the buckwheat noodles according to package instructions.
  3. Once they’re done, don’t forget to rinse them with extra cold water.
  4. Put them into a bowl, and add the boiled eggs, vegetables, the apple, and 1 teaspoon of gochugaru, as well as the beef.
  5. Add some broth water into the sauce and pour it on top of the noodles.
  6. Enjoy!

Netflix actually released a documentary about these delicious noodles, called Korean Cold Noodle Rhapsody, check it out!

If you liked Naengmyeon and are interested to try more Korean noodles, check out this post.