Summer has almost arrived, and already a few days have been unbearably hot. As the temperature rises, my appetite diminishes. As I pondered what to eat on one such sizzling afternoon, Sophia Lee, the owner of miss Korea, invited me to her restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. She introduced me to a fascinating dish—Iced Korean Naengmyeon Noodles.
Lee is an elegant Korean lady. As I watched her move about she was as graceful as a butterfly and yet there was an inner strength to her. And when she spoke I listened intently—she was so poetic and profound, speaking about the deeper meaning of nature and the universe.
“My philosophy for food is zhen, shan, mei,” said Lee. Zhen means truthfulness, shan means compassion, and mei means beautiful. The restaurant has three levels, and each is named after one principle.
Lee went on to tell me more about the recipe. Naengmyeon is a Korean cold noodle dish made from buckwheat and potatoes or sweet potatoes. Traditionally, the long noodles would be eaten without cutting, as they symbolized longevity and good health.
Naengmyeon has been made since the Joseon Dynasty (1392—1897), and it was originally a delicacy, since only nobility and the rich had access to ice in summer. They had reserves of ice in their very own caves. While the poor ate naengmyeon in winter, wrapped in layers of blankets seated around fires just to stay warm. I added, “Just like how we eat ice cream in winter.” Lee nodded and laughed.
The naengmyeon recipe at miss Korea takes more than 60 hours to prepare. To Lee, every step is crucial but also to be enjoyed. To me, the end product was a dream come true. The noodles were cooked al dente. While the soup incorporated the many flavors of the vegetables and fruits, it was also refreshing and healthy. It transported me to a food wonderland and saved my appetite. I call this the best iced fantasy recipe for sizzling hot weather. Enjoy!
Korean Cold Noodles Recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 hours
Makes 4 servings
1 package Korean buck wheat noodles, naengmyeon, about 16 ounces
8 ounces beef shank
2 eggs, boiled, halved
1/4 daikon radish
1/2 pear, sliced
12 ice cubes
8 cups water
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 daikon radish, sliced
1/2 ginger, sliced
6 gloves garlic
6 stalks scallions
6 dry chili peppers
6 pieces licorice
1/2 apple, sliced
1/2 pear, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
To make the soup stock, pour 8 cups of water into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Then add beef shank, onion, daikon radish, ginger, garlic, scallions, dry chili peppers, licorice, apple, pear, and cook over medium heat for 3 hours.
Then remove all the ingredients from the pot with a mesh strainer. Set the beef shank aside for later. Add all the seasonings to the soup, including salt, sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce. Turn off the stove, let the stock cool, and then chill in a refrigerator.
To make the toppings, cut the beef shank into thin slices and put aside. Marinate the rest of the ingredients, including cucumber, daikon radish, apple, pear from the chilled soup stock for 1 hour. After 1 hour, slice the cucumber, daikon radish, apple, and pear into thin strips and set aside.
Next, soak the naengmyeon noodles in warm water for 30 minutes. Bring water to boil in a medium stock pot. Blanch the noodles for 1 minute. Then douse the noodles with cold water until thoroughly chilled.
To serve, place the desired amount of noodles in a large bowl and top with cucumber, daikon radish, apple, pear, beef shank, egg, soup stock, and ice cubes.
(This recipe is adapted from the original by Sophia Lee, which takes 60 hours to complete.)