What do you know about Korean noodles? Do you already know about a bowl of noodles in cold water with a chunk of ice?
Let my do my best to introduce you to the typical noodle dishes we often eat here in Korea. Some of what I say about Korean noodles might be regional to this part of Korea without me realizing it. I am not an expert about how food in Korea varies across the different regions of the country. But that’s the point of this website being about Goseong anyway! These are not stock photos, I took them myself and ate what is pictured myself.
These are thin buckwheat noodles served cold. There are two main kinds.
Bibim (as in bibimbap) means “mixed”. Served with spicy gochujang (red chili pepper) sauce, these noodles are usually topped with shredded cucumber and a boiled egg, among other things such as shredded lettuce, cabbage, kimchi, or slices of meat, etc.
The sauce is very sweet, but I like eating this in the hot summer. Although served all pretty and stacked, people mix the contents of the bowl before eating. The scissors are there for cutting the noodles once or twice.
Mul means “water.” These noodles are served in a kind of freezing cold, often sour “soup” with floating chunks of crushed ice. Toppings can be similar to bibim naengmyeon. It’s up to you if you want to add any chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard sauce, etc.
Like many Korean noodle dishes, it can have a featured topping such as kimchi. This one took me a while to get used to, but I like it now.
These are wheat flour noodles. There are many kinds of guksu in Korean cuisine, so we’ll pick a few to look at.
Kal means “knife”, so these Korean noodles are cut with a knife. They are often eaten in a large bowl of warm seafood-based soup.
Haemul (seafood) kalguksu contains mixed seafood such as squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, etc along with the noodles and some fresh vegetables and seaweed.
It’s not usually spicy, but you can season it.
Patkalguksu features pat which is “red bean” paste. This paste is often sweetened and used in all kinds of desserts and snacks, but with noodles, it is just slightly sweet if I remember correctly. I enjoy most Korean food, but this one is still a little unpleasant for me.
When I got a plate of makguksu, it looked like just a salad until I uncovered the noodles underneath the veggies. This is one of its distinguishing features.
Makguksu and jjolmyeon are both served on a plate, though makguksu often has the most veggies.
Makguksu and naengmyeon both use buckwheat flour, though makguksu is made with a higher concentration of buckwheat flour.
It’s particularly popular in the Gangwon-do region, though we have eaten it here around Goseong too.
Bibim guksu and mul guksu
This is basically the same as bibim naengmyeon and mul naengmyeon, except for the noodle (guksu use wheat flour instead of buckwheat). However, guksu noodles are more often used for hot dishes than for cold ones.
Here is one bowl of bibim guksu and one bowl of kimchi guksu. (That’s a roll of gimbap next to the bowls.)
Like the other noodle types, milmyeon can be served as either mul milmyeon or bibim milmyeon. The difference is that the noodle is a mixture of starches from sweet potato, potato, and flour. This is an original Busan dish, and it’s common to see here in Goseong which is just an hour from Busan. But people from Seoul sometimes don’t know about it.
Jjolmyeon is similar to guksu in that it uses wheat flour and perhaps starch, but these Korean noodles are the most chewy because of the way they are made under high pressure. They are more yellow in color.
This dish features what people call “glass” or “cellophane” noodles (they’re clear when cooked). In Korea these are usually made with sweet potato starch.
The noodles are stir-fried with various vegetables such as mushrooms and leafy greens, and sometimes meat. The seasoning is soy sauce and sesame oil.
This dish is common to eat to celebrate something such as for birthdays or for holidays. It’s not meant to be served either hot or cold (though it doesn’t matter if it is) and is often just room temperature.
My mother-in-law usually cooks japchae with garlic and sprinkles sesame seeds on it. Here is some home-made japchae by my Korean family, fresh from the wok. Notice the shells too, both of which indicate an occasion!
The main characteristic of this dish is the black sauce which is apparently made from fermented wheat flour and soybeans with soy sauce or oyster sauce. It is derived from Chinese cuisine and is considered “Chinese” food in Korea. The noodles are thicker than many of the other noodle dishes, and it’s one of the cheapest.
Included in the sauce are bits of pork, potatoes, onions, and other vegetables. You can order seafood jjajangmyeon if you like.
You’ll be served a side of crunchy, yellow, sliced, radish kimchi whenever you order jjajangmyeon.
The instant version of jjajangmyeon that can be found in any convenience store is jjapagetti, and it’s supposedly the second highest-selling brand of instant noodles in South Korea. It’s popular with kids, but certainly adults including myself and my wife enjoy it regularly.
These wheat noodles are also considered “Chinese” food. It’s a spicy soup with seafood.
I can’t find a photo of classic jjampong with red spicy soup. It’s not my favorite so I don’t eat it much. But this is what we believe was a kind of white jjampong.
Ramen Instant Noodles
Covering instant noodles would require its own post. Suffice it to say that Koreans love instant noodles, and they can be found everywhere including convenience stores. There are numerous kinds and brands. Xin is one of the most popular brands.
Here is a cup noodle ramen that I sometimes get. The “mala tang” is a reference to the spicy, numbing Chinese flavor of Sichuan province where I used to work.