Let’s Talk Food: Cold Korean noodles

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON The brown label cold Korean noodles KTA Super Stores at Puainako in Hilo.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON The blue label cold Korean noodles at KTA Super Stores at Puainako in Hilo.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Frozen Korean products at KTA Super Stores at Puainako in Hilo.
  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Frozen Korean products at KTA Super Stores at Puainako in Hilo.

Cold Korean noodles are popular in the summer, but when North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea President Moon Jae-In met in April for a summit and Kim invited Moon to taste the signature North Korean dish, it’s popularity was further elevated to new heights.

Pyongyang naengmyeon, buckwheat noodles, in chilled meat broth was brought “a long way” from the capital of Pyongyang. Kim jokingly told his sister, Kim Yo Jong, “Ah, we probably shouldn’t say it is far!”

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Regarding this cold noodle dish, Kim said, “I’ve been checking the news and people are talking about food a lot. So I brought some Pyongyang cold noodles for President Moon to enjoy. President Moon, please feel easy to have some delicious Pyongyang noodles that we brought.”

This comment sent South Koreans flocking to restaurants that had these cold noodles on the menu. There were long lines at one shop in eastern Seoul, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Topped with kimchi, cucumber and pickles or meat, any restaurant with Pyongyang noodles on its menu was packed and you were lucky to find a seat. Most patrons had to wait awhile for a seat.

There are two types of naengmyeon noodles, depending on how they are prepared: mul naengmyeon, or Pyongyang naengmyeon, in which the buckwheat noodles are in a clear, refreshing broth, typically made in beef broth and/or dongchimi or radish water kimchi broth, and hamheung naengmyeon, or bibim naengmyeon. These noodles, made mostly with potato or sweet potato starch, are mixed in a red, spicy sauce.

Both these dishes became popular in South Korea after the Korean War by the people who fled the North.

Store Manager Kenneth Fujii of KTA Super Stores at Puainako informed me KTA is carrying several types of cold and hot Korean noodle kits in the frozen section.

One of them, the blue bag, is labeled Korean Style Noodle, Nouille Coreenne de Modele. The noodles are made of wheat flour, sweet potato starch and buckwheat and come with a clear broth and seasoned pollack and kimchi radish for the topping.

There also is a brown bag, Korean Style Noodle (arrowroot flavor), and it has noodles made of wheat flour, buckwheat and arrowroot with a packet of red pepper sauce.

The cooking directions for the sweet potato starch noodles, the blue bag, say to place the frozen noodles in boiling water for 90 seconds. Add 500 cc of cold water and boil for another 40 seconds. When noodles become soft, thoroughly rinse them in a colander under cold running water and drain. Place the noodles in a bowl and pour the broth, which is in another packet (which you should take out while cooking the noodles to allow the broth to thaw, but still keep a few bits of ice), over the noodles and top with the seasoned pollack and kimchi radish.

The brown bag’s, the arrowroot flavor, cooking directions per serving say to add frozen noodles to boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. (We found that longer cooking time, such as 2 minutes, made the noodles not so chewy). Thoroughly rinse the cooked noodles under cold running water a few times and drain in a strainer. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour the semi-thawed broth over it and serve with the red pepper paste sauce. It tastes better with seasoned cucumber, radish mustard sauce or egg to taste.

Dean and I did a taste test and loved them both.

It you are feeling ambitious and would rather make it from scratch, here is a recipe for two.

Cold Korean Style Buckwheat Noodles

Serves: 2

Boil the Broth:

8 cups water

4 shiitake mushrooms

One piece 2-inch kelp or dashi-kombu

10 dried anchovies, heads and intestines removed

Boil for 20 minutes on high heat, lower the heat to low, cook for another 20 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate.

Mix together in a small bowl:

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1/2 tablespoon water

Place in warm place and let sit for 5 minutes.

Cucumber:

Cut cucumber into 1/2-cup thin strips

Pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Mix together and set aside.

Korean or bosc pear:

Cut pear in 1/2-cup thin strips

Soak in cold water, add:

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Set aside.

Eggs:

Hard-cook eggs, one per person, in boiling water for 13 minutes, place in ice water, peel.

Cut in half, set aside.

Place noodles in pot of boiling water, cook for 3-5 minutes. Move pot to sink, pour cold water over them, drain some of the water out and pour more cold water over them again. This will help the noodles get chewier.

Rinse and drain a couple of times until not slippery. Put into colander to drain.

For each serving:

2 cups stock

2 teaspoons vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon sugar

5-7 ice cubes

Place noodles in a bowl. Add cold broth, cucumbers, pears, mustard paste, egg halves on top. Serve cold. Add kimchi juice or young summer radish kimchi.

Foodie bites

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Hawaii Community College’s Culinary Department’s The Cafeteria and Cafe are open 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. today through Friday. Call 934-2559 for menu options and takeout orders.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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