Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles)

You can make these restaurant favorite cold noodle dishes at home. Learn how to make two types of naengmyeon dishes – spicy and with broth

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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! There are many restaurants specializing in this dish in Korea, and I always visit some of them every time I visit Korea. Here, I’ll show you how I make these noodles at home. 

What is naengmyeon?

Literally translated into cold noodles, 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. Mul means water, referring to the broth in this dish. 

If the noodles are mixed in a red, spicy sauce, it’s called bibim naengmyeon. 

Mul naengmyeon is commonly known as Pyeongyang naengmyeon (평양냉면) in Korea while bibim naengmyeon is known as Hamheung (함흥냉면) naengmyeon. These names come from Pyeongyang and Hamheung, which are North Korean cities. These cold noodles became popular in South Korea after the Korean war by the people who fled the North during the war. 

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The noodles

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. DSC 0061 2 - Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles)

 

How to make mul naengmyeon

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 (무초저림). It’s basically simple sweet and sour radish pickles that are typically included in both types of naengmyeon. It should be made at least a few hours before using it. You can also use well fermented kimchi (thinly sliced) or yeolmu (young radish) kimchi instead.

How to make bibim naengmyeon

Bibim naengmyeon is much simpler since you don’t have to make the broth. Some people still add a little bit of broth as well as meat to bibim naengmyeon, but it’s not necessary. The spicy sauce is easy to put together. You can easily double the sauce for more servings or later use. The sauce will keep well in the fridge for weeks.

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Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles)

4.5 from 20 votes
Servings: 2
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For sweet and sour radish (8 servings)

  • 1 pound Korean radish mu
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For beef broth (makes about 10 cups - 4 servings)

  • 1/2 pound 230 grams beef brisket (양지머리)
  • 6 ounces Korean radish, mu (무)
  • 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

For optional dongchimi broth

  • See my quick dongchimi recipe.

For noodles - either type of naengmyeon (2 servings)

  • 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
  • Vinegar
  • Hot mustard paste

For bibim naengmyeon sauce (2 servings)

  • 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

Instructions

Sweet and sour radish

  • 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.
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  • Add the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix well by hand until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and add more vinegar or sugar to taste.
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Mul Naengmyeon

  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Make two one-serving size mounds, placing in a colander to drain.
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  • 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.
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Bibim naengmyeon

  • Mix all sauce ingredients and keep it cool in the fridge. You can do this ahead of time.
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  • 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.

Notes

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.
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Comments

  1. Can the beef broth be made in an instant pot? If so, how long would you recommend cooking it for? Thanks!

    • Yes! I’d cook it for 25 to 30 min if you’re using a tough cut of meat such as brisket.

      • Thank you! I couldn’t wait to cook it last time so I just followed your stovetop directions. I made the bimbim naengmyeon and it was so delicious. I will be trying it with the instant pot this time. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes.

  2. Great recipes. Do offer a cookbook?

  3. Question: your broth recipe does not include the radish but the photo of your broth has radish in it. Is it optional? Thanks!

  4. Hi, can I use the white noodles – if am not wrong the bean noodles for kongguksu for this dish? Ran out of the buckwheat! Thanks!

  5. Hello! I hope I can still get a reply since it’s been a while. I want to make this for a picnic this weekend. This is really the only cold food I can think of that tastes freaking fantastic under good weather. I was planning to pre-cook everything the night before and divide the noodles into little disposable cups (stored in the fridge). The broth I plan on using an old 2 liter pepsi bottle to bring to the picnic. They will be like mini appetizers of sorts. The question I have is if the noodle will remain chewy overnight. It’ll probably sit in the fridge for about 10 and about 2 hours outside (on the way to picnic, but I may be able to bring a cooler). I don’t want it to end up soggy. I’ve never made this before so I’m not sure! I also saw in other recipes that we can use pear juice. I really hope this will work because I think it’ll be a blast at the picnic! Thanks ahead of time.

    • Oh I’m so sorry if I missed your question before. It’s a nice idea, but naengmyeon noodles will definitely get soggy. Can you cook noodles at the picnic site?

  6. Do you have any advice for changing the broth to a vegan broth? Love cold noodles!

    • Dongchimi broth (raddish water kimchi) is the best as a vegan broth: https://www.koreanbapsang.com/2012/09/quick-dongchimi-quick-radish-water.html You can also use any other type of vegan broth. Here’s an example of vegan broth: https://www.koreanbapsang.com/2012/12/beoseot-jeongol-mushroom-hot-pot.html

    • 5 stars
      Hi!
      I tried making these and I think I must have done something wrong. The soup tasted like water and I added in some sugar and salt. Definitely tasted something! But after I put in the cold noodles I only tasted the noodles. I don’t have mustard paste and vinegar, but could these last 2 ingredients be the reason why I couldn’t taste the soup?
      I also used kikkomin soy sauce as a substitute for soup soy sauce.
      Just wondering if these 3 missing ingredients could be the only reason why the food turned out a little bland. Thank you for sharing your recipe and I hope I can figure out what I did wrong so I can try to make it again!

      • Hi Grace! Deeply flavorful beef broth is a must for good naengmyeon. For that, beef brisket and aromatic vegetables are important as well as soup soy sauce (guk ganjang). Sugar, salt, mustard and vinegar are all common for naengmyeon, so I don’t think these were the problems unless you used so much to overpower the beef broth. Dongchimi broth is usually used by good naengmyeon restaurants. It really enhances the flavor of the broth. You can make it at home or buy pre-made from a Korean market. Or, try to add a little bit of juice from well fermented kimchi for a little flavor kick. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi Ms Ro. Im trying to make this tomorrow.
    However i have a few questions!
    1) can i use daikon in place of korean radish as i really can’t find any ro make dongchimi and then sweet and sour radish?
    2) how long can the beef broth last in the freezer?
    3) the naengmyeon i got is frozen. Do i have to defrost it before cooking?

    Thank you in advance!!!!

    • Yes, you can use daikon. Will be a little diff. Beef broth will last for 2 to 3 months. You don’t need to defrost the noodles. Just break it up before dropping in to the boiling water. Enjoy!!

  8. Stephanie says

    Mrs. Ro – Looking through your blog posts makes me relive my trip to Korea this summer. It’s almost a given fact that Korean food is what makes a trip to Korea so special! This naengmyeon is perfect for the hot and sweltering summer this year!

    Thank you once again!

  9. My wife and I were both hoping you’d share how to make naengmyeon and here it is! Thank you Mrs. Ro! We can’t wait to try it 🙂