Nengmyeøn: Korean summer noodles

It was one of those “busy-lazy” days when cooking was low on my list, but we were hungry. Mr. Tess had found edamame beans and some lovely cherry tomatoes at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, and we had a large piece of beautiful but left-over Atlantic salmon.

Wash the edamame.
Boil in salted water for about 8 minutes.
Rinse in cold water, chill, and serve.
Use your front teeth to pull the beans
from the pods

I found a pear in the fruit bowl, a small cucumber and some still usable green onions in the fridge.

Those ingredients suggested something with quick and easy with noodles. Glancing around the kitchen, I saw the Korean buckwheat noodles standing in a tall jar on the counter.

While these are buckwheat noodles, they are very different from Japanese soba. These are made from wheat flour, buckwheat (메밀, memil), and potato starch, sweet potato starch, and kudzu.

These noodles are popular year-round in Korea, especially in summer. You can eat these noodles with icy tangy broth (mul naengmyeon) or with a hot and spicy sauce (bibim naengmyeon). Spicy mustard and vinegar are often added at the table. (also sometimes: hot pepper paste, sesame seeds, sesame oil, corn syrup, or honey) Traditionally, the long noodles would be eaten without cutting, as they symbolize long life and good health, but these days, servers at restaurants usually provide food scissors to cut the noodles.

When I made this meal last spring, I made the broth with beef brisket, garlic, ginger, green onions chili pepper, vinegar and soy sauce. The package of noodles came with packets to make an instant sauce and while I could already guess the result, I wanted to see what it would be like.

The noodles are pleasantly nutty, chewy, and stretchy. They cook fast: 2 minutes and they are ready to rinse! They can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge; if they stick together pour cold water over them.

The green onions are a traditional topping, as is the pear. The pear adds a nice crunch and sweetness to the dish. Other traditional toppings include daikon (sliced and soaked in vinegar), cucumber (sliced and soaked in salt and vinegar), half a boiled egg, and thinly sliced beef. In this case, for this home-meal, I used flaked salmon—a nice meaty fish—and some great cherry tomatoes. All very pretty.

So how was the instant powdered broth? Salty but bland, nothing like the real beef broth, but it was very quick, didn’t mess up the kitchen, and with condiments, well, the broth was wet.

13 thoughts on “Nengmyeøn: Korean summer noodles

  1. Oh, Tess…. that statement “the broth was wet” left me laughing so hard, and I really needed a laugh today!

    priceless! I might have to use this expression from now on, but I’ll give you full credit for it, ok?

  2. Well, when I went to wash the jar I found a strip of clear packets that contained some really spicy mustard oil on the bottom. Oops.

    When we were on vacation / family reunion last month, we took turns cooking, some being better cooks than others.
    My sister-in-law made toast the first morning. Each slice was darker than the last.
    When my brother got to the table, his comment was, “This toast looks burnt…”
    (and she glared at him and motioned for him to take her turn)
    He quickly added, “…just the way I like it!”

    MMM, burned (greasy, cold, raw, dry, whatever): just the way I like it.
    Just like my broth:
    MMM, wet, just the way I like it.

    Feel free to describe broth as wet whenever you like! LOL

    • My mother was a good cook, and she made a sheet of toast under the broiler every morning. She’d be doing other things and would often burn it. I grew up preferring burned toast!

      And about the broth – wet broth is surely better than dry broth. ;-)

      • LOL. My dad would say burned toast would grow hair on your chest. (??? why would I aspire to that?)

        Well, the packets had dry broth in them I guess.

        • LOL, It’s a good thing my father never said burned toast would grow hair on your chest. It’s also a good thing that the saying is not true, and I promise you, it isn’t. ;-)

          • Yes, it is a good thing, but let’s not go there…

            …remembering meeting some high school classmates who got married right away, hearing them talk about what a pain it was to have to shave everyday… too far there now, right?

  3. My first thought was that was a picture of a sea urchin. Then I looked closely and saw it was pasta. ;) it just occured to me what a wonderful addition you would make to my blogroll on my other blog. I’ll put you under my art catagory because fine cooking IS art. But as it develops I hope to have more and more things about Japan on it too.

    • Well, it was a picture I recycled from the first time I used those noodle because I liked it too.

      Cooking may be art, but mine is humble home cooking. My photos though, I do try to present them as I would like them to be seen. I think I spend more time on how my posts are arranged and how they will be seen. Not so much on this blog as on my other one: How many times can people take a picture of a leaf or flower or noodles? And how can a person make it “art?”

      Sometimes I think that good graphics are good art, just because they look “nice.” I’ll make my other blog public again soon.

      Hey, I also had a chance to look at your other blog. I will have to spend a bit of time there. Work and real life get in my way. Also rambling along about stuff as I just did on your blog. Maybe that was of some interest?


  4. This is a pretty dish Tess – I could eat that up right now although when I read pears I think I imagined them cut into batons or dice – your way is more generous I think.
    My grandfather alway said he took his tea wet. Taking tea orders when he had guests he would sometimes pantomime – making a T with two fingers and raised eyebrows. Then he’d strike a strong man pose with raised eyebrows next slack shoulders and knocking knees – raised eyebrows. Guests were usually baffled. A family member who’d witnessed this “joke” way too many times would have to wearily interpret. Tea? Strong or weak?

    • Oh, not so pretty, and not so traditional. But quick, and tasty enough. In my mind, it is real home cooking. I’m sure home cooks in Japan do not throw away perfectly good food in order to make a “traditional” recipe every day. Or maybe I’m getting comfortable enough with this to be able to say, Hey it’s food! Let’s eat.

      The pears were a revelation to me. But why not? Mint with lamb. Lemon with fish. Apples with pork. Turkey with cranberries. If you try this, you will see what I mean about the noodles from Korea being stronger, stretchier, and longer than their Japanese soba version. Pears are a good match.

      Love your story about your grandfather. Admit that I would not have figured out his pantomime, but it’s perfect.
      especially this, “A family member who’d witnessed this “joke” way too many times…”

      Just the way I like it!
      Thank God for family jokes.

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