Sunday, January 18, 2015

I Heart Noodles: Korean Buckwheat Noodle Salad

I've talked before about my preference for savoury breakfasts so with that said, I'd like to add: I am a noodle girl. All the way. It might be an Asian thing, but I could eat noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it would be a dream come true (including European-style noodles too, e.g. spaghetti, spƤetzle... you name it!).

And lately, I've been indulging in that dream. Fragrant Vietnamese noodle salads, fiery fried Chinese noodles, nourishing and aromatic chicken noodle soups... and, happily, I've just discovered bucatini, a hollow spaghetti, which has also been giving me a lot of joy.

Of that theme, my favourite breakfast at the moment is a Korean-style Buckwheat Noodle (Ngaenmyeon) SaladNgaenmyeon is made from the flour and starches of various ingredients including buckwheat, wheat, and sweet potato, and is therefore chewier and more elastic than, say, its Japanese counterpart, soba.

I'm aware that Korean food isn't the most popular of Asia's cuisines, and I think I understand why: a lot of its core flavours are created from fermentation (e.g. kimchi) and this can be overpowering when unaccustomed. However, the health benefits of fermented foods are indisputable and definitely worth looking into if you are trying to eat healthier and especially if you have any digestion problems.

In any case, this dish is definitely Korean lite. And while kimchi would be a worthwhile addition, I'm keeping it simple. And never mind the breakfast thing, this would equally make a great lunch or light dinner.

Korean-style Buckwheat Noodle (Ngaenmyeon) Salad

Instead of a recipe, this dish is more of an assemblage (ingredients in bold):

While cooking a portion of Korean buckwheat noodles (refer to packet instructions and serving size), prepare sliced cucumbers and carrots cut julienne/into rough matchsticks. Arrange in wide serving bowl(s). The noodles should be ready at this point; drain in a mesh sieve, and refresh thoroughly with cold water. Shake out as much water as possible.  Add to bowl, alongside cucumber and carrots, and cut noodles with kitchen scissors, e.g. into six parts.

Drizzle noodles with about a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and a teaspoon and a half of soy sauce. Season with kombu/seaweed sprinkle (if you have it), and add toasted sesame seeds (or a mix of pumpkin, sunflower, flaxseed and sesame, as I did) and sliced spring onions. Finally, add a generous teaspoon of gochujang (Korean fermented chilli pepper and soybean paste, which comes in different heat levels), or as much as you like, to your own taste. Serve with a boiled egg. Toss salad ingredients altogether, ensuring the gochujang is evenly distributed throughout.

For me, this is a wonderfully light, healthy and guilt-free dish with plenty of flavours and textures. It's also incredibly filling from all the raw vegetables, egg protein, and buckwheat/sweet potato flour/starch in the noodles. If gochujang is a bit much for you (as it was for my partner), it still makes a fine salad - where additions of avocado or thinly sliced radish would be more than welcome - without it.


  1. Gojuchang! My arch nemesis during my 2 years in SoKo....