Archive for the ‘Jjolmyeon’ Category

101 Korean cold noodles

July 31, 2010

I’m not sure I really have 101.  I once got A’s in calculus, but given how long it takes me to calculate a tip now, just follow me and see if my calculations make sense to you.

With the never-ending heat wave that has been summer in New York this year (and summer in Russia and summer in Japan), cold noodles have been the only food I can stand to eat.  Some of them are classic Korean preparations, some of them are riffs, all of them only require that I turn on the stove just long enough to bring a small pot of water to a boil so the noodles can cook through.  Asian noodles have an added benefit — they’re done anywhere from 45 seconds to 4 minutes.  And if you choose carefully, some of the packaged versions at Korean grocery stores are quite good, without any of that chalky MSG taste.

(I love the Pulmuone line of organic noodles packaged in bags, though they are a little pricey and the Pyeongyang naengmyeon broth was too sweet.)

Let’s start with the different noodle possibilities:

  1. Pyeongyang-style naengmyeon, pale-gray buckwheat noodles
  2. Hamhung-style naengmyeon, yellow sweet potato starch noodles
  3. Chik-naengmyeon, black arrowroot noodles
  4. Makguksu, describes buckwheat noodles from Gangwon Province, but often used to refer to thin white wheat noodles
  5. Kalguksu, chewy, knife-cut noodles made of wheat
  6. Dakmyeon, sweet potato glass noodles
  7. Jjolmyeon, super-chewy, thicker wheat noodles (see photo above)
  8. Somen, thin, tender rice noodles
  9. Memil, thin, wholesome-tasting buckwheat noodles, similar to Japanese soba

(I know there are more — what am I missing?)

These noodles are used in some classic preparations, like mul-naengmyeon, in cold broth, bibim-naengmyeon, in a spicy-tart sauce, or japchae, noodles stir-fried with beef and vegetables.

I’ve been eating a lot of kongguksu, wheat noodles served in a cold, vegetarian soymilk broth, the most refreshing carb-plus-bean protein dish ever.

What I really love, though, is that almost all of the above noodles can be cooked, rinsed under cold running water, and then made into bibim-guksu or “mixed noodles.”  And like bibimbap, which is “mixed rice,” what you want to mix with your starch is completely up to you.  Summer produce is particularly inspiring.

Here’s my running start at

good ingredients to put into bibim-guksu

some of which are Korean and some of which are not:

  1. Shredded green cabbage, particularly awesome in jjolmyeon
  2. Shredded red cabbage, just as sweet as green and more psychedelic in color;
  3. Julienned cucumbers;
  4. Julienned carrots;
  5. Julienned zucchini;
  6. Blanched soybean sprouts;
  7. Blanched mung bean sprouts;
  8. Any sort of baby salad green: arugula, frisee, mizuna, tatsoi, mustard, spinach,…;
  9. Any sort of green sprouts: radish, pea;
  10. Perilla leaves, also known as wild sesame leaves, thinly sliced;
  11. Roasted seaweed, cut into thin strips;
  12. Yeolmu kimchi, made with the green tops of baby radishes;
  13. Chonggak kimchi, made with baby radishes;
  14. Any kind of kimchi;
  15. Muhchae, julienned Korean radish, lightly pickled in vinegar;
  16. Asian pear, thinly sliced;
  17. Fuji apple, thinly sliced;
  18. Boiled beef, thinly sliced and served cold;
  19. Smoked fish, like salmon, trout, or mackerel;
  20. Canned tuna?  Why not?;
  21. Sashimi?  Like a noodle version of hoe dup bap!;
  22. Cubes of tofu, plain, marinated, or smoked;
  23. Hard-boiled eggs.

And of course, some sort of chojang-style sauce to top it all off:

  • ¼ cup gochujang
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar, such as rice, brown rice, or cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
  • Enough water to thin it out to the desired consistency

So if you have at least 9 kinds of noodles, 23 possible mix-ins, of which you can use any number from 1 to 23 at any one time (though I would aim for 4, personally), how many different permutations is that?  At least 101, right?

If you have any additional noodle or ingredient suggestions, let me know!

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