Mul Naengmyeon | Cold Buckwheat Noodles with Broth
Just because it’s too damned hot to cook doesn’t mean you have to live on chips and guacamole. Of course, chips and guacamole are pretty awesome.
In Korea, when temperatures rise folks turn to Mul Naengmyeon (물 냉면), a satisfying dish of cold buckwheat noodles (naengmyeon) served with beef broth, a variety of refreshing toppings such as sliced white radish (mu, 무), cucumbers and Korean pear (bae, 배), and pungent Asian-style prepared mustard or mustard oil.
Ok, so there is some cooking involved – but it’s limited to preparing the noodles and seasoning the broth. The broth, however, can be made in advance and even frozen. If you have a vegetable peeler, the rest is easy peasy.
Most packages of Korean buckwheat noodles will come with packets of instant broth seasoning. They’re not bad but homemade broth is so much better. You can either start with your own oxtail soup broth (gori gomtang, 꼬리곰탕) – our recipe here – or with store-bought beef broth.
• 32 oz (946 mL) beef broth
• 1 cup (237 mL) filtered or bottled water
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce (“soup” soy sauce or gukganjang (국간장), if available)
• 3 oz (90 g) sliced young Korean white radish (yeolmu, 열무) or Japanese daikon
• 2 large or 4 thin whole scallions, roughly chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
• 1 (2” / 5 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
• 3 (roughly 3” / 7.5 cm square) pieces of kelp
• 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon Asian/Korean mustard powder (gyeojagaru, 겨자가루)
Combine ingredients in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Maintain the boil for five minutes then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 30 more minutes. Allow the broth to come to room temperature before straining it into a lidded container. Transfer the broth to the refrigerator to chill.
Tip: You can freeze all or portions of the broth. We like to make large broth ice cubes and serve them with the finished mul naengmyeon.
While traditionalists may balk, we like to think of mul naengmyeon like a salad, using ingredients that are local, fresh and delicious. If you live outside of Korea and nowhere near a Korean grocery store, making use of substitutions is only natural. And yes, we use roast beef. As in American deli counter roast beef. And it is awesome! Feel free to adjust ingredients and proportions.
• 1 (approximately 25 oz / 720 g) package naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles)
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• 2 burpless cucumbers
• 2 young Korean white radishes or 1 Japanese daikon
• 1/4 cup thawed frozen spinach or wilted fresh spinach
• 1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
• 1/2 lb (225 g) roast beef, sliced thick
• Korean shredded red pepper / red pepper threads (silgochu, 실고추), to taste
• Black sesame seeds, to taste
• Korean prepared mustard* or mustard oil
Other ingredients to consider include hard cooked eggs, carrot ribbons, and sliced Korean pears.
First, prepare the naengmyeon according the package directions but they generally take 3-4 minutes to cook. Unlike Italian pasta, you’ll want to thoroughly rinse naengmyeon under cold water after draining. Rinse until naengmyeon is cool and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle the sesame oil over the bowl and use your hands to mix the oil into all the naengmyeon.
Next, prepare the toppings. Cube the cucumber or, alternatively, turn it into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Likewise, use the vegetable peeler to whittle down the radish. Chop the roast beef into bite-sized pieces.
Finally, evenly portion the naengmyeon, cucumber, radish, spinach, mushrooms and roast beef among four or five large bowls (stainless steel bowls are traditionally used for mul naengmyeon), placing the noodles in the bowls first. Add a cup of the reserved beef broth to each bowl and garnish with silgochu and black sesame seeds.
Serve mul naengmyeon with Korean prepared mustard or mustard oil – each person can mix in their own to taste. If the weather is especially hot we like to serve the dish with a single frozen cube of beef broth – it will gradually melt, keeping the noodles cold and creating more liquid broth for additional servings of noodles.
*Korean and Japanese prepared mustard is sold in tubes like toothpaste. If you cannot find it whisk together 1 tablespoon hot mustard powder with half a teaspoon of water. Allow the mixture to stand 5-10 minutes before serving.