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6 Korean Cold Noodles to Try Now
Jul 28, 2020

Cold noodles are a great option for those lazy summer days. There are more choices other than the popular Pyongyang naengmyeon. Let me share a quick list of these cold noodles so you, too, can try these before the summer ends.

How do you get through hot summers? We’ve listed a few suggestions to beat the summer heat with less AC Included in the list are cold noodle and here’s a more detailed one on that. 

Korea’s food choices for the extreme seasons sometimes leaves me wondering why. When it’s cold in the winter, Koreans would have no hesitation to flock to the ice cream store to eat ice cream. When it’s summer, the order of the day is to eat the hot chicken soup, samgyetang. Fight fire with fire is what they say. 

And if anyone had told me about having an icy noodle soup on a cold winter day before coming here, I wouldn’t have been hot on that idea. I first tasted it just a couple of hours fresh off the plane some fifteen years ago. I was a bit hesitant at first since I was already pretty full with the rice and meat that we’ve had for dinner. But of course, I tried it and it left me with good memories of my first cold Korean noodles. 

The keywords to remember here for noodles are “guksu” and “myeon.” Since this is Asia, there are a lot of kinds but we will focus on the cold ones this time. These are best eaten in the summer but Koreans do serve some of them even in the winter. 

These cold noodle dishes usually use two basic kinds of noodles: the buckwheat noodles and naengmyeon noodles. Naengmyeon noodles are usually brown and made from buckwheat, and starch from potato, sweet potato or even arrowroot. It is usually sold in the cold section of a Korean supermarket if you are interested to try to make it at home. 

The buckwheat noodle, on the other hand, is in the dry noodles area. Shelf time is longer and storage is easier. If the West has pasta noodles, this might be the Korean one. Most cold noodles use any of these two as base. They just vary in toppings and whether it will have a broth or none. And yes, the sauce will most like be gochujang-based for the spicy ones with a few variations.

As I write this post, it was a bit of a puzzle for me to figure out how to present these common cold noodles in a more logical way and easy to understand. Let’s start with the naengmyeon, the more popular noodles for the summer. 

1. Mul Naengmyeon (물냉면)

Mul Naengmyeon is literally “water cold noodles.” The popular ones are Pyeongyang Naengmyeon with either beef or radish broth and Hwe Naengmyeon that uses slices of raw marinated fish or even seafood as toppings. The kind of Naengmyeon noodles used for both are also slightly different. The latter has less buckwheat and more starch which makes it more chewy. 

The noodles and the ready-to-eat broth are easily available at most Korean stores especially during summer. You just have to add other fresh produce like the ubiquitous cucumbers.

2. Bibim Naengmyeon (비빔냉면)

This is almost similar to the “mul naengmyeon” except for the optional broth that you may or may choose to add. It’s a more simple dish using the naengmyeon noodles if you want to try making it by yourself.

3. Mak Guksu (막국수)

It’s not yet as popular outside Korea as the Pyeongyang cold noodle. It’s maybe common in Chuncheon, Gangwondo but do a quick search in Kakao Map and more than a hundred of Mak Guksu restaurants will show up just in Cheonan alone. The broth is usually chicken-based but can be mixed with beef and dongchimi (radish-based stock.) The noodles are topped with more variety of vegetables compared to the ubiquitous summer vegetable, cucumber. 

 

4. Bibim Guksu (비빔국수)

This is the spicy cold noodle territory. It’s noodles, vegetables and specially made chili sauce. It doesn’t necessarily need a broth because the ice cubes that are added can be the alternative for that. This is also pretty easy to prepare depending on your skills on the chopping board. It needs a bit more vegetable to chop to add as toppings.

5. Yeolmu Kimchi Guksu (열무김치 국수)

If you want to skip the chopping a lot, this is a better alternative. The main star of this noodle dish is the yeolmu kimchi. You have the noodles, the kimchi plus a few more toppings to your liking and you’re good to go. Pretty easy preparation if you want to try at home. You just need to have a yeolmu kimchi on hand. 

6. Kong Guksu (콩국수)

If you are trying to avoid meat  and can’t handle the heat, this is for you. This can be another favorite for non-spicy eaters out there. It might take a little bit of getting used to if you are not a big fan of nut milk though. It’s basically noodles, slightly seasoned nut milk, topped with cucumbers, tomato or watermelon, and roasted sesame seeds. It’s creamy and cold because of the ice added upon serving. It’s perfect for a hot day. And did I mention that it is vegan? 

This is, by far, my personal favorite. A Korean friend shared a DIY hack in making it easily at home with just a few ingredients. You only need the sumyeon noodles, boiled egg, cucumber, tomato or watermelon if you have, and hold your breath…tofu! Just pop the tofu into the blender with a bit of icy cold water, add some roasted sesame seed or any nuts that you fancy and some salt to taste. The slight seasoning will make the creaminess come out as you add this onto the cooked noodles. Top with more sesame seeds and as much cucumber and/or watermelon that you want and you are ready to feel refreshed on a hot summer day. 

These are just some dishes that we can always look forward to eating during those hot days. From those six cold noodle dishes mentioned, I’m pretty sure that there’s one that you will like.  Meat restaurants would often serve these but there are also some noodle restaurants that only serve these in the summer. Have you decided which one to try first? Give it a go at home or try some at a restaurant nearby.