Korean summers are excruciatingly humid and hot. Temperatures will rise above the 90s and for a few weeks monsoon season hits so it rains cats and dogs. Fortunately, throughout my life I have only spent a handful of summers there. I love being there and it’s where I call home, but summer is just not its best season.
One great thing about summer in Korea though is the cold noodle soups. They’re cool, refreshing, and very flavorful. The most common and popular cold noodle soup is probably, naengmyun, 냉면. It is made with buckwheat noodles and a cold broth garnished with julienned cucumbers, asian pear slices, half a hard boiled egg, and pieces of steamed pork belly. It’s a bit complicated to make naengmyun from scratch, which is why they sell packages of naengmyun “kits” in Korean/Asian supermarkets. Everything is included, so all you have to do is boil the noodles and pick your garnishes.
The cold noodle soup that I made is called kong-guk, 콩국, which means bean soup. It’s most typically made with soybeans, but I made mine with black beans. This is also a very budget friendly recipe. It essentially only uses one main ingredient. Buying dried beans is much cheaper than buying canned ones. It’s also healthier because it doesn’t contain any extra sodium. The recipe is super easy and very straightforward, except it does take a bit of planning ahead. The beans need to be refrigerated for a few hours before they are blended so that the soup is cold. I boiled mine the night before and made this for lunch the next day. The soup is very soft and mild with a slight nutty aftertaste. Alone it can taste a little flat, but the starch and chewiness of the noodles pairs perfectly.
Cold Black Bean Soup with Noodles
1 cup dry black beans*
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt
2 servings noodles**
Julienned cucumbers for garnish
Wash and soak soybeans in 2 cups of water for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain and transfer to a pot. Boil in 2 1/2 cups of water for about one hour or until cooked through. Separate the beans and water into two containers and refrigerate for a few hours until cool.
When ready, blend the beans with 1 cup bean water, 1 cup water, and sesame seeds. Salt to taste. If you want a smoother soup, pass through a sieve. Place the soup in the freezer while you boil the noodles. When the noodles are cooked, rinse them in cold water.
Divide the noodles between two bowls. Pour the soup over the noodles and garnish the cucumbers.
*You can use dried soybeans or replace with 2 cups of canned black beans.
**I used Korean noodles that are thicker and chewier than spaghetti noodles. If you can’t find them then substitute with eggs noodles or spaghetti.