Cold buckwheat noodles in a sour broth
I’m a Korean food fan. And I love this picture of the yellow mustard drizzled over the buckwheat noodles. It’s better than going to an exhibition of modern art. The pink radish side dish makes me happy too. But …
…I’m just not a huge fan of cold noodles. This is where Mr Kim and I disagree because, if there’s one dish that Mr. Kim could eat every day for the rest of his life and never get sick of, it would be makguksu: cold noodles. Actually, I have yet to meet a Korean person who doesn’t like cold noodles.
It’s become more of an issue during the summer as Mr Kim will often suggest going out to get makguksu for breakfast. So I’ve been trying to like them. In their defence I must say that they are presented beautifully: a work of art with the noodles and kimchi and veg balancing on top. The ingredients of this dish usually also include yeolmu radish leaves kimchi, radish, seaweed flakes, and sesame seeds.
The noodles come in two styles: bibim guksu – noodles mixed in spicy chilli paste sauce, or mul guksu, in a vinegar-flavoured cold meat-based broth. Mr Kim always chooses the bibim version of noodles (below) and I always choose the noodles in broth (below, below!)
The first time I came to Seoul to meet Mr Kim’s parents, we all went out for lunch and had this, the family favourite. His whole family LOVES it. But this dish is probably one of the hardest dishes for a newbie to Korean food to eat.
Firstly because they demand serious skills with chopsticks. The noodles are slippery and long and wrapped up in a bundle in the bowl so they have to be teased apart with the chopsticks. When I first visited Seoul, I was used to shorter, wooden Japanese chopsticks rather than the longer, heavier and more slippery Korean chopsticks and they caused me grief. Especially with these slippery little suckers.
You can ask to have this bundle of noodles cut in half with a pair of scissors if you like, which I do recommend, but I didn’t know this at the time. And what a struggle I had. I’d try to be dainty and lift a couple of noodles up with the chopsticks and and a whole bunch would fly up splashing sauce everywhere.
I’m still not really into these noodles. And Mr Kim still loves them. So I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. They look great though …