What’s your favorite food for hot summer days? In Korea, cold noodles are extremely popular in the summer. Among many varieties of cold noodle dishes, naengmyeon (냉면) is at the top in popularity ranking! Naengmyeon is a cold noodle dish of thin, chewy noodles that are made with buckwheat and potato or sweet potato starch.
There are two main types of naengmyeon dishes depending on how it’s prepared – mul naengmyeon (물냉면) and bibim naengmyeon (비빔냉면). For mul naengmyeon, the noodles are served in a clear, refreshing broth that’s typically made with beef broth and/or dongchimi (동치미, radish water kimchi) broth. For bibim naengmyeon, the noodles are mixed in a red, spicy sauce. I will show you how to make both types of naengmyeon in this post!
Mul naengmyeon is commonly known as Pyeongyang (평양) naengmyeon in Korea while bibim naengmyeon is known as Hamheung (함흥) naengmyeon. Pyeongyang and Hamheung are North Korean cities. These naengmyeon dishes became popular in South Korea after the Korean war by the people who fled the North during the war. Pyeongyang naengmyeon noodles are made much more buckwheat than starch, and traditionally enjoyed in icy cold dongchimi broth in the winter. Hamheung naengmyeon noodles are made mostly with potato or sweet potato starch, so they are thinner and chewier.
Various types of naengmyeon noodles are sold commercially – dried, refrigerated, and frozen. Some packages include pouches of premade broth or spicy sauce, which are pretty popular in Korea for quick, convenient meals. They tend to be more expensive, so if you’re making naengmyeon from scratch, only buy noodles.
To make mul naengmyeon, you will need to prepare the broth ahead of time and chill. It’s best to use a combination of beef broth and dongchimi broth. You can make quick dongchimi (aka summer dongchimi) a few days ahead of time or purchase dongchimi sold in the kimchi section of Korean markets. Otherwise, simply use beef broth. I usually make a large batch of beef broth and freeze it to make naengmyeon when my craving hits. I sometimes add a little bit of juice from kimchi to the naengmyeon broth to give it a little kick.
Another item you want to make ahead is naengmyeon kimchi, also known as mu chojeorim. It’s basically simple sweet and sour radish pickles that are typically included in both mul naengmyeon and bibim naengmyeon. It should be made at least a few hours before using it in naengmyeon. You can also use well fermented kimchi (thinly sliced) or yeolmu (young radish) kimchi instead.
The broth and meat can also be used for bibim naengmyeon, but you can still make bibim naengmyeon without them. You can easily double the sauce for more servings or later use. The sauce will keep well in the fridge for weeks.
- 1 pound Korean radish, mu
- 3 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 pound (230 grams) beef brisket (양지머리)
- 1/2 medium onion
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 3 thin ginger slices (about 1 inch round)
- 2 large scallion white parts
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons soup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt to taste
- See my quick dongchimi recipe.
- 2 servings of naengmyeon noodles
- 1 boiled egg, cut into halves
- 1/2 Korean cucumber (or 1 kirby cucumber)
- 2 thin half-moon shape slices of a Korean pear - optional
- Hot mustard paste
- 4 tablespoons finely ground gochugaru
- 4 tablespoons beef broth (or water)
- 3 tablespoons grated Korean pear or apple
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup (or use more sugar)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- sesame oil to drizzle over the noodles
- Clean the radish by scrubbing with a brush and/or scratching off the stubborn impurities with a knife. Cut the radish crosswise into 2 to 3 inch pieces if long. Place cut side down and slice lengthwise as thin as you can. Gather the slices and cut into about 3/4-inch strips. You can use a mandoline to thinly slice, if available.
- Add the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix well by hand until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and add more vinegar or sugar to taste.
- In a large pot, bring the meat, onion, scallions, garlic, ginger and peppercorns to a boil, uncovered, in 14 cups of water. Reduce the heat to medium to medium low to keep it at medium boil, and skim off the scum. Continue to boil, covered, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Stir in soup soy sauce with 10 minutes remaining. Remove the meat and cool. Discard the vegetables. Cool the broth.
- Pour 5 cups of the broth to a bowl (about 2-1/2 cups per serving). Stir in one teaspoon of sugar and salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon). You can add 1 or 2 cups of dongchimi broth, if available, and reduce the beef broth by the same amount. Also use less salt. Keep it in the freezer for an hour or two until the broth becomes slushy. Keep the remaining broth in the fridge or freezer for later use.
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Thinly slice crosswise, lightly sprinkle with salt, and let it sit until the cucumber slices are wilted. Thinly slice the beef against the grain. Thinly slice the pear into a half-moon shape if using.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath while water is boiling. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain quickly and shock in the ice water to stop cooking. Drain and rinse again in icy cold water until the noodles are very cold.
- Make two one-serving size mounds, placing in a colander to drain.
- Place one serving of noodles in the middle of the serving bowl and top with the pickled radish, slices of beef, cucumber, and pear if using, and the egg half. Pour one half of the icy broth around the noodles. Repeat for another serving. Serve with vinegar and hot mustard paste on the side.
- Mix all sauce ingredients and keep it cool in the fridge. You can do this ahead of time.
- See mul naengmyeon above for cooking noodles and preparing the toppings. For bibim naengmyeon, slice or julienne the cucumber and do not salt.
- Place the noodles in the middle of the serving bowl, and drizzle 1 teaspoon of sesame oil over the noodles. Top with the pickled radish, cucumber slices, pear slices, sliced beef if available, and the egg half. Drop in a few ice cubes so the dish can stay cool while eating. You can add 1/4 cup of beef broth, if available, to the bottom of the bowl. The sauce can be served on top or separately. Serve with vinegar and hot mustard on the side.
- 1. You can also use the leftover radish as a side dish. The radish will keep well for a couple of weeks. It may become soft after that.
- 2. Chill the bowls in the freezer before using to help keep the noodles and broth cold while eating.