Last weekend, my family and I went to Flushing, NY., one of the largest Korea towns in the U.S., to watch the World Cup Round of 16 game between Korea and Uruguay. Korea played amazingly but still lost! After the game, we ate at a small Korean restaurant nearby. While looking at the menu, bibim guksu got my attention right away. I did not have to think twice about it, and it was the right decision. The dish was so cool and refreshing! It was just what I needed after the heartbreaking game on a scorching day.
Bibim guksu is a cold noodle dish that is usually made with thin wheat flour noodles (somyeon) or buckwheat noodles (memil guksu). The noodles are typically mixed in a sweet and sour gochujang sauce along with thinly sliced crisp fresh vegetables. If more soy sauce and less chili pepper paste is used, it can be made mild. You can toss it all together before serving, or arrange everything in a serving bowl so it can be mixed at the table. The latter allows each person to adjust the amount of sauce to his or her liking. As with its rice counterpart, bibimbap, this is a very versatile dish. A simple version I recall from my childhood memories is made only with sliced kimchi and fresh cucumbers. There are more elaborated versions as well. The one I ate at the NY restaurant had plenty of surprises such as strips of squid, snails, shrimps and avocado. Here, I kept it simple. Using buckwheat noodles, I added a few vegetables to create a nice combination of colors, flavors and textures. The result is an especially appetizing dish that is perfect for hot summer days!
8 ounces buckwheat (memil guksu/soba) or wheat flour noodles (somyeon/somen)
1 Kirby (pickling) cucumber, julienned
3 to 4 red cabbage leaves, julienned
3 to 4 lettuce leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced kimchi
1 boiled egg (optional)
(Other vegetables commonly used are carrots, scallions, perilla leaves, and Korean radishes. Although not as common, red bell peppers, bean sprouts, watercress, and spring mix can be excellent additions to this dish as well. Just be creative and have fun with it!)
3 tablespoons Korean chili pepper paste (gochujang)
1 tablespoon Korean chili pepper flakes (gochugaru) (if you like extra heat)
1 teaspoon Korean/Asian hot mustard paste (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar (or use honey or corn syrup)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
(You can also add a small amount of lemon juice, orange juice, or soda such as coke or sprite for an additional layer of flavor.)
Mix all sauce ingredients and keep it cool in the fridge.
Prepare the vegetables and keep them cool in the fridge or in ice water (drain well before using).
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions (5 – 6 minutes). Drain quickly and shock in cold water to stop cooking. Drain and rinse in icy cold water until the noodles are very cold. Make two one-serving size mounds. Place the mounds in a colander to drain.
Place the noodles in the middle of the serving bowl and nicely arrange the cold vegetables over the noodles. Drop a few ice cubes so the dish can stay cool while eating. The sauce can be served on top or separately.