Buckwheat Noodles Summer
Healthy and Always Versatile
One of the summertime dining staples in Korea is buckwheat noodles.
Even when the scorching weather makes one easily lose their appetite, it is hard to resist the slurpable noodles that can be served either hot or cold.
Known for their unique grainy texture, buckwheat noodle lovers seek those that are made entirely out of buckwheat.
In Korea, such buckwheat noodles are recorded in the 17th-century cookbook “Eumsik dimibang.” The book defines buckwheat noodles as food shared by the hosts and guests after important rituals. It is also said that the noodles were regarded as a nutritious meal that drives away body heat, and therefore often served for lunch at the royal court.
The naturally gluten-free buckwheat contains abundant lysine, an essential amino acid which is missing in most plant-based vegan diets. It is also known to strengthen blood vessels and help improve cholesterol levels, according to multiple food nutrition studies.
As Korea’s memil guksu -- a type of buckwheat noodle dish in which the noodles and dipping broth are usually served separately -- has gained popularity, there has been much debate about its origins. A vast majority of reviews based on historical archives today seem to give much weight to speculations that it is a modified version of the Japanese soba, which supposedly landed in Korea during the Japanese colonization.
Apart from the memil guksu, Koreans have enjoyed buckwheat noodles in a variety of different ways since the Joseon era.
Bibim Guksu (Summer Spice Cool Noodles Dish)
Bibim guksu is usually made with thin wheat flour noodles (somyeon or somen) or buckwheat noodles (memil guksu, aka soba noodles). You can use any thin noodles.
In Korea, there are many variations of thin noodles made with different grains and/or other additions that add flavors and colors. While buckwheat noodles are my favorite, I also love colorful noodles made with green tea, seaweed, pumpkin, purple sweet potatoes, etc.
Here, I kept it simple. I added a few vegetables to create a nice combination of colors, flavors and textures. Other vegetables commonly used are scallions, perilla leaves, and Korean radishes. Red bell peppers, bean sprouts, watercress, spring mix, and avocado are all excellent options for this dish as well.
A little bit of julienned Korean pear or apple will be great as well.
You can also throw in some strips of blanched squid, snails, shrimp, or shredded chicken meat to make it a more substantial dish. Be creative and have fun with it!
You can toss it all together before serving, or arrange everything in a serving bowl so it can be mixed at the table. The latter allows each person to adjust the amount of sauce to his or her liking.
The sauce is gochujang based. I also add gochugaru for an extra kick. You can leave it if you like the noodles to be less spicy. For the sweetener, you can simply use sugar, or a combination of corn syrup (or oligo syrup) and sugar. The syrup gives a nice sheen to the dish, but you can simply use more sugar or honey if you want.
Korean maesilcheong (plum syrup) works wonderfully in this sauce, if available. You can also add a small amount of apple juice, orange juice, or soft drink such as coke or sprite to make the sauce even better.
Source : Kim Hae-yeon