Korean Spicy Cold Noodles

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.

Korean Spicy Cold Noodles

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

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4

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.

Yum

Ingredients

  • 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

Sauce:

  • 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

Method

1 On the stovetop, fill a medium large pot with water and bring to a boil. 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.

2 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.

3 Once the water is boiling, add buckwheat, or other type, of noodle and cook according to package instructions, or about six minutes, until al dente. When noodles are finished cooking, pour into a collander and rinse with cold water and drain. To quickly cool your noodles you may also place a few ice cubes in the collander or place the drained noodles into the freezer for a short time, just don't forget them!

4 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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Links:

Spicy, sweet, and vinegary noodles (bibim guksu) from My Korean Kitchen

Bibim Guksu (Korean spicy cold noodles) from Eating and Living

Judy Chung Peacocks Ramen Bibim Guksu from the Brooklyn Kitchen

Showing 4 of 22 Comments

  • Jennifer Jo

    This looks amazing! Quite suddenly I’m very hungry.

    My favorite cold noodle dish is the classic peanut noodles with cilantro and celery. It took a number of tries to find a recipe I liked, but once I discovered this one, my search was over. http://bit.ly/gmYHVe

  • Hannah Yoo

    Omg so surprised to see this in your blog. (cuz I’m Korean) I love these noodles especially in the summer. if you serve it with ice it’s even cooler!

  • PatDA

    These noodles are very good! I believe the recipe came out of Bon Appetit magazine many years ago with a few modifications to make it just what we wanted. This goes great with grilled salmon, chicken or grilled albacore tuna.

    Indonesian Summer Noodles

    Servings 4

    5 tablespoons sesame seeds
    5 tablespoons soy sauce
    1/4 cup peanut butter preferably chunky
    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    1 tablespoon grated ginger
    2 garlic cloves — minced
    1 teaspoon hot chile oil — or more to taste
    1/2 cup hot water
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 pound Chinese egg noodles
    4 scallions — sliced thin
    1 medium carrot peeled and grated
    1 red bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin

    Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds. Puree the remaining 4 tablespoons sesame seeds with the soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile oil in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream (you may not need all the water).

    Cook the noodles in 6 quarts boiling water seasoned with the salt until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Shake out the excess water and transfer to a large bowl. Add the scallions, carrot, red pepper, and sesame sauce and toss to combine. Arrange on a serving platter (or divide among individual bowls) and sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds.

    Cuisine:
    “Indonesian

  • Robyn

    I love asian-style cold noodles and request them at asian restaurants in the summer in the hope of finding a new version; often they are not shown in the English language menu but are usually available (if only as staff lunches!).
    Particular favourites: Korean Mul Naengmyeon, Japanese Reimen (aka Hiyashi Chuka Soba), Japanese Somen, Japanese Tokoroten, Vietnamese Bun rice noodles served as part of a ‘Vietnamese’ salad.

    It’s winter here, so it’s hot noodles for now, but I like cold noodles best.

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