Sometimes when it gets so hot in the summer, I dread cooking dinner and the idea of firing up the stove top — worst yet, turn on the oven.
So it’s nice to keep things simple. Better yet, eating something nice and cold. That’s where this Korean cold noodle dish comes in.
I’ve had this dish at Korean restaurants, and the first time I tried it I was surprised to see a bowl filled with ice cubes. They’re really serious about making sure the broth is icy cold. It’s a soup noodle dish but with a broth that’s not just icy cold but slightly vinegar in flavor to really kick up your appetite.
This weekend I recreated this dish at home, known as mul-naengmyeon. It gets its name from the starchy buckwheat noodles, packaged as naengmyeon at Korean stores (or large Asian supermarkets in the noodles section). It’s like vermicelli, but has a slight chewy texture. Even though it’s made from buckwheat, Koreans warn against using Japanese soba noodles (also made from buckwheat) as a substitute.
I make the beef stock early at night when it’s cooler and then save it in the refrigerator when I’m ready to pull together the dish. And really, the bowl comes together by assembling the toppings. The only time you’re turning on the heat is when you boiled the packaged noodles, and that’s really just 5 minutes of cooking time because they cook so fast.
So next time you’re wondering what to eat on a hot day and you’re tired of making salads, try this traditional mul-naengmyeon dish and chill.
Korean Cold Noodles or Mul-naengmyeon Recipe
Makes 2-3 servings
Ingredients for beef stock
1/2 lb. beef brisket
1 small onion
1 slice of kombu (dried yelp)
Half an Asian pear
1 stub of fresh ginger
Ingredients for Mul-naengmyeon
Package of naengmyeon
Thinly sliced beef brisket
Sliced Asian pear
1/2 English cucumber, julienne
1 hard boiled egg
Pickled radish (including water)
2 cups chicken broth
Ingredients for mustard dip
Korean hot mustard paste
To make the beef stock ahead of time, start by bringing a pot of water to a boil with beef brisket, onion, kombu, Asian pear and ginger. After boil, skim off the “scum” or the brownish bits that bubble to the top. Then reduce to simmer and let cook for about two hours. (Add about 1/2 tablespoon of salt for seasoning.) When done, strain broth through a sieve to remove any more scum along with the larger ingredients. But keep the beef brisket for use later.
When ready to make your naengmyeon, create the finish broth by adding 2 cups of your beef stock with 2 cups of chicken broth. Add 1/2 cup of pickled radish water (drain from the package of pickled radish you can get at Korean stores) or if you don’t have pickled radish water add either distilled white vinegar or rice vinegar. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Bring a pot of water to boil and cook as much naengmyeon noodles as needed per package instructions (typically 4 to 5 minutes). Drain and rinse in cold water. In a small pot, boiled a hard boil egg (start by adding egg to the cold pot of water and then boil at medium heat for 15 minutes, then let cool in cold water).
To assemble your bowl, start by adding the rinsed noodles. Then add broth to barely cover the noodles. (If you want the broth more icy, add a few ice cubes.) Slice beef brisket and add on top, along with the cucumbers, Asian pear and pickled radish. Serve immediately with kim chee and hot mustard. (To prepare the hot mustard, mix paste with sugar and rice vinegar to taste.)
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