Spicy and cool, this traditional Korean dish for hot weather is made with buckwheat noodles, various crunchy veggie toppings, and a spicy chili sauce.
Photography Credit:Elise Bauer
Recently returned from a year teaching English in Korea, my friend Kerissa Barron has been introducing me to some of her favorite dishes, including this one, a spicy cold noodle salad, with lots of toppings.
It’s known as bibim guksu in Korean, and if you’ve ever had bibimbap, it’s a lot like that, but chilled, and with thinly sliced raw vegetables and a hard cooked egg. The sauce that holds it all together is sweet and spicy and made with red chili paste, rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame. So good!
I recommend making extra sauce and just keeping some around to dress up leftovers. The meal comes together quickly, the most time needed to cut up the vegetables.
Here’s what Kerissa has to say about it:
Having lived in Korea, where summers are not only hot but extremely humid, when I think summer, I think spicy cold noodles (bibim guksu in Korean). Also, having grown up in a very hot part of California with a mother who literally forbade us to turn on the oven from June until October, I understand the importance of dishes that require little to no cooking to get us through these hottest of months.
However, do not be fooled by the simplicity of preparation. Korean food, and in particular these Korean noodles, are extremely flavorful. Between the red chile paste, sesame oil and rice vinegar these noodles hit all the flavor notes: spicy, sweet, salty, tangy and nutty.
Feel free to use the dressing to make any variety of cool summer dishes. It would make a great salad simply by tossing with lettuce or thinly sliced cucumbers, or even being poured over sliced cold tofu or cooked chicken.
Do you have a favorite cold noodle dish for hot summer days? Please let us know about it in the comments.
Korean Spicy Cold Noodles Recipe
Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles are used for this recipe, which you can usually find in the international section of the grocery store. You can also use somen noodles, Korean wheat noodles (guksu), arrow root noodles, sweet potato starch noodles, or even spaghetti or angel hair pasta.
The toppings are flexible as well. Add, subtract, adjust to your taste and availability.
- 1 lb soba (buckwheat) noodles (can sub practically any favorite noodle)
Choose from assorted toppings:
- Lettuce, thinly sliced
- Green and/or red cabbage, thinly sliced
- Cucumber, julienned
- Carrot, julienned
- Asian pear, julienned
- Green onions, thinly sliced
- Sesame (perilla) leaves, thinly sliced (while traditional for this dish, you can skip)
- Radish sprouts
- Cabbage and/or radish kimchi
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 4 Tbsp Korean red chili paste (gochu jang)*
- 4 Tbsp rice vinegar (un-seasoned or seasoned will both work)
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar (light or dark)
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
* Korean red chile paste is a thick, sweet, and slightly garlicky paste made of fermented red chiles. It is available at some asian food stores and at Korean markets. If it is unavailable in your area feel free to use this substitute with similar results:
1 tablespoon hot paprika (or can use 1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika plus 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
5 teaspoons corn syrup (light or dark)
1 teaspoon miso paste (miso is fermented and will help approximate the flavor of the gochu jang, if you don't have it, you can omit)
1 mashed garlic clove
1 tablespoon water
Salt, to taste
1 Boil water for noodles: On the stovetop, fill a medium large pot with water and bring to a boil.
2 Prep toppings: While the water is heating, prepare toppings and the sauce. Prepare the lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, carrots, asian pear, sesame leaves and radish sprouts. Set aside. Cut each hard boiled egg in half. Set aside.
3 Make sauce: In a small bowl, combine red pepper paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Stir to combine and set aside.
4 Boil, drain, and cool noodles: Once the water is boiling, add buckwheat noodles, or other type of noodles, and cook according to package instructions, or about six minutes, until al dente. When noodles are finished cooking, pour into a colander and rinse with cold water and drain. To quickly cool your noodles you may also place a few ice cubes in the colander or place the drained noodles into the freezer for a short time, just don't forget them!
5 Serve: To serve, place cooled noodles in a medium sized bowl. Top with dressing and vegetables/fruit of your choice. Place one of the hard-boiled egg halves on top and a few radish sprouts.
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