Are you a fan of Korean food? If you’ve yet to join the club, you will after trying Naengmyeon. This Korean cold noodle soup is a traditional dish that is particularly popular during the hot summer months because of its cold broth and robust yet refreshing flavors. The soup comprises thin, chewy noodles made from buckwheat or potato starch, served in a cold beef broth with thinly sliced brisket and various fresh toppings.
This version of the cold noodle soup is very approachable and easy but retains much of the dish’s authenticity. From preparing the broth to assembling the final bowl, I cover how to create a perfect bowl of Naengmyeon in this recipe. Grab your apron and prepare this tasty, refreshing cold noodle soup!
Why You’ll Love This Korean Cold Noodle Soup
- A refreshing meal option – Korean cold noodle soup is perfect on a hot day. Although rich in flavor, the ingredients used to make the broth, combined with the temperature at which it is served, give it a fresh flavor profile. It doesn’t eat like a rich beef soup, and that is what makes it so unique.
- Satisfying flavor profile – It’s deep, complex, sweet, and packed with umami. On top of that, you have wonderful textures that contribute to the overall taste of the soup. You really have to experience it firsthand, but I can’t recommend this cold noodle soup enough.
- Intensified flavors – You know how food tastes 10X better after a few hours of refrigeration? Well, that’s what this cold noodle soup is all about! As food cools, flavor and aroma compounds mix and mingle to develop more profound flavors. There’s also the fact that heat isn’t present to mask or distract the taste buds.
- Easy to make and customize – While Korean cold noodle soup may initially seem intimidating, you’ll soon discover it’s pretty easy to make at home. Making the broth is simple; as you make the broth, you’re also cooking the beef, and each bowl of soup is easy to customize. Experiment with toppings to create a bowl tailored to your tastes!
Korean Cold Noodle Soup Ingredients
Korean cold noodle soup calls for fairly basic ingredients, but there are two you may not be familiar with. Here’s what you need:
- Kombu: Kombu is an edible kelp. It comes dry and, when combined with water, makes a light broth base for Korean cold noodle soup. The flavor of kombu lies somewhere between mildly salty and subtly sweet. Those who haven’t ventured much into making Asian food may not have used it before.
- Beef brisket: Brisket has a deep, beefy flavor and is very tender and juicy.
- Aromatics: This includes onion, ginger, and garlic. They work to make the broth super fragrant and very delicious. You’ll especially notice some ginger-fueled heat in the background.
- Dried mushrooms: The flavor of dried mushrooms is more concentrated than fresh and successfully adds a lot of depth to soups like this one.
- Naengmyeon noodles: Naengmyeon noodles is the second ingredient you may not be familiar with. Most Asian grocery stores will have them. Online retailers that specialize in Korean ingredients are another option. They are sold dry, fresh, and frozen. I used dried noodles in this recipe. They are usually $5-8 per bag.
- Rice Wine: Rice wine has a subtle sweetness that balances the intense, salty flavors of other ingredients in your broth. Note that this does contain alcohol, but that evaporates during the cooking process. It is not the same as rice wine vinegar, which would add a completely different flavor profile.
(Scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe card with exact measurements and recipe instructions.)
How To Make Korean Cold Noodle Soup
- Make the broth base: Soak the kombu in water for an hour, then remove the kelp. You can either discard it or reuse it in other recipes.
- Cook the beef: Add the meat to the pot with the aromatics, soy sauce, rice wine, and other seasonings. After it comes to a boil, everything is left to simmer until the beef is tender.
- Strain the broth: After you remove the brisket, pour the broth through a strainer to remove any solids. Extract even more flavor by squeezing as much broth from the solids as possible. To do this, wrap in a cheesecloth and firmly squeeze.
- Chill: Wrap the brisket and pop it into the fridge. Also, transfer the broth to a container and chill for 6-8 hours. During this time, more flavor development will take place. As a plus, cold beef is much easier to slice thin.
- Cook and cool the noodles: They go into a pot of boiling water for about 8-10 minutes. Once done, run them under water until cool (this is a cold noodle soup, after all) and drain them.
- Slice the beef: Get the slices as thin as possible. A serrated knife is great for this.
- Serve: Divide noodles between serving bowls followed by slices of beef, ladle broth over the top, and garnish as desired.
Variations, Substitutions, and Cooking Tips
Make broth with bonito flakes – The broth base for this cold noodle soup is essentially dashi which you can make with kombu, bonito flakes, or a combination of the two.
Swap the brisket for sirloin – Either is fine. Another option is flank steak.
Add extra protein – Many top Korean cold noodle soup with half a hard-boiled egg.
Use dashi powder – To save an hour of prep time, use dashi powder for the base broth. The powder comes in convenient packets – such an easy way to make dashi.
- 1 sheet kombu (dried kelp)
- 9 cups cold water
- 1 (12-ounce) beef brisket
- 2 medium onions, peeled and halved
- 2 slices fresh ginger, ¼ inch thick
- 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 ½ tablespoons raw sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ cup rice wine
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon beef bouillon powder
- 12 ounces Naengmyeon noodles, about half a package
- 1 small cucumber, julienned
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
- Optional toppings: cabbage, thinly sliced radish, hard-boiled eggs
- Add the kombu and water to a large pot. Cover and leave to sit at room temperature for an hour.
- Remove the kombu from the water and discard it or reserve it to use in other recipes. Then add the beef to the water with the onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, sugar, salt, rice wine, soy sauce, and beef bouillon.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, lift the brisket out of the broth, and pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl with a lid. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate the beef and broth overnight. Store separately.
- Once the beef and broth are cold, remove them from the refrigerator. Thinly slice the meat and use a spoon to skim off any hardened chunks of beef fat from the surface of the broth.
- Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Run under cold water once done and drain once cooled completely.
- Divide the noodles between serving bowls. Top with sliced beef, then ladle broth over the noodles.
- Top each serving with julienned cucumber and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
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