Literally translated as “water cold noodle”, for its ice-cold broth and chewy buckwheat noodles, Mul Naengmyeon (물 냉면) is a favorite for many gourmands seeking a reprieve from the sweltering heat of Summer. The dish was originally consumed in the colder months, when the buckwheat seeds were more readily available; today, we eat naengmyeon all through the year.
My grandma is famous for her cold broth. Family and friends were always looking forward to her once-a-year celebration of the non-stop serving of naengmyeon. As a young child, this event was a feast for all the senses; I watched and hovered around her waist as she made the most delicious concoction come alive. I can never forget the savory smells of the meat broths and the sweet-tangy radish kimchi liquid swirled around in a bowl. Her friends, from neighboring apartments and those many miles away, would stop by and grab a bowl to eat. Some would stay just for the meal, say their greetings, and be on their way; but most would remain, eating quietly, with only the slurping sound of cold noodles filling the air. It was *seriously* that good. A quiet “Mmm…” was the usual response that would break the silence, and everyone present would burst out laughing. Only then was it okay for everyone to begin chatting.
I vaguely remember that she made part of the broth the day before. The following day, she boiled the noodles and the eggs, sliced up the beef and kimchi, and then assembled the dish to eat. It was time-consuming, but *so* well-made that I had to get the recipe.
This is an adaptation of her version of naengmyeon, because she – like many old ladies – doesn’t have a set recipe. After she told me her method of preparation, I set out to codify her ingredients and procedure. After some tinkering and research, I came up with the recipe below.
- 300g (1¼ cup) Beef Broth, made with Brisket/Beef Shin
- 300g (1¼ cup) Low Sodium Chicken Broth
- 300g (1¼ cup) White Radish Kimchi (동치미 - dongchimi) Liquid
- 12g (1T) Granulated Sugar
- 5-15g (1t-1T) Rice Vinegar
- 225g (½-lb) Brisket/Beef Shin, cooked and thinly sliced
- 1 clove Garlic
- 4g (2t) Ginger, sliced
- ¼ small Onion
- Slices of White Radish Kimchi
- 2 large Eggs
- 1 Kirby Cucumber, julienne
- Hot Mustard or Mustard Oil, to taste
- 480-550g (17-20oz) Buckwheat Vermicelli, dry weight [about 120-138g (4¼-5oz) per person]
- Take a ½-lb of brisket (ideally, the brisket point) and simmer with the garlic, ginger, and onion for 1-1½ hours, covered. Strain and discard the alliums and ginger. Cool the broth. Refrigerate the broth and meat separately. Once chilled, scoop out and throw away the fat from the broth.
- Take a can of low sodium chicken broth. It would be even better if you made your own.
- In a large bowl, combine the chilled beef broth, chicken broth, the kimchi liquid, and sugar. Set inside the freezer while you work on the other components.
- Slice up the radish kimchi into thin strips. Do the same for the brisket. Set those aside.
- Boil the eggs: bring a pot of water to a boil. Gently place the eggs into the pot with a slotted spoon or small ladle. Cook for 9 minutes, then shock them in ice water. When they come down to room temperature, peel and cut in half. Set aside with the kimchi and beef.
- While the egg is boiling: wash and julienne (matchstick-size) the cucumber.
- Bring another pot of water to a boil. Cook the vermicelli for 2-3 minutes. Strain and run the noodles under cold water to cool and to get rid of the starch.
- Plate the dish: divide the cold noodles into 4 bowls. Add a few slices each of the kimchi and beef. Add desired amount of cucumber and a half and egg per bowl.
- Stir in 5g (1t) of vinegar to the broth mix. Divide the broth into the 4 bowls. Add more vinegar to taste.
- Add a small amount of hot mustard or mustard oil to make the cold noodles more piquant. Enjoy!
- Try and find some chicken broth that doesn't have any additives like tomatoes, and herbs and spices. A plain chicken broth will do best.
- To make your own chicken broth: get a piece of leg meat (e.g. a drumstick, bone in) and place it in a pot with roughly 470g (2 cups) of water. Add a large clove of garlic, 4g (2t, or two slices) of ginger, and 3g (½t) kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for an hour, covered. Strain and cool the broth. Refrigerate. Scoop out the floating fat. Top up the amount of liquid to the indicated amount if you are short (e.g. Did you boil a lot of the water out and so now your broth is down to 200g? Add 100g of water. Easy peasy!). Keep the chicken drumstick for another recipe (e.g. chicken salad?).
- White Radish Kimchi can be found at your local Korean grocery store. If you don't have any kimchi, you can omit this ingredient; however, you will be missing that crunchy-tangy component that really brings this dish together. In order to make the sweet-tart brine for your broth, combine 238g (1 cup) water, 20g (2T) kosher salt, 40g (3T) sugar, and 30g (2T) vinegar as a substitute.
- Rice vinegar preferences vary from person to person. Add the indicated amount of 5g, and set aside the leftover amount for those that enjoy the dish with more acidity (like me!). Additionally, the mustard can be omitted, but I really like the sinus-tingling heat that the condiment gives to the naengmyeon.
- Beef brisket is the cut of choice, but I have made it with shin meat before. The broth has a bit more body because of the tendon and gelatinous layers. It's delicious!
- There is a wide selection of buckwheat noodles out there, with some that come with a concentrated soup packet. I don't use the soup base because it is often very salty. The particular noodles I use for this dish are usually a combination of buckwheat, wheat/potato/acorn starch, but is also made with arrowroot. Remember that this isn't the same as Japanese cold noodles, like soba, as they are made thicker.
- Total Fat 7.8g10%
- Saturated Fat 2g10%
- Trans Fat 0.1g
- Unsaturated Fat 3.8g
- Polyunsaturated Fat 0.9g
- Monounsaturated Fat 2.9g
- Cholesterol 127mg42.3%
- Sodium 480mg20.9%
- Total Carbohydrate 103.9g37.8%
- Dietary Fiber 4.9g17.5%
- Total Sugars 17.5g
- Includes 12.8g Added Sugars25.6%
- Protein 29.8g59.6%
- Vitamin A 42µg2.8%
- Vitamin C 5mg8.3%
- Vitamin D 1µg10%
- Calcium 44mg4.4%
- Iron 5mg27.8%
- Potassium 660mg18.9%
I love eating this during the Summer because it really cools your body down. I sometimes add slices of Asian pear, sesame seeds, chopped kimchi, or sliced chilies right before eating. And a couple of ice cubes to really chill the bowl down.
I do often wonder why it took me over twenty years to get it, but now I have it. Thanks, grandma! And the noodles live on!
**Here are some of the ingredients I use for this recipe. Please, feel free to browse and ask questions on anything you see listed below.**