Photo by Hazel Oh
Summer isn’t summer in my kitchen unless I make my swicy cold noodles. Swicy cold noodles are what I have always eaten in the summertime. Back when I use to be a littl’un in Korea, my mum would always make swicy cold noodles for a quick slap-up lunch on hot summer days. Korean summers are absolutely brutal — much much worse than it is in New Zealand — and somehow eating these spicy sweet, tangy cold noodles brought back our lost appetite. My brother and I would slurp these noodles down like they were nothing even though we could barely eat spicy food and would have to take breaks sucking on ice cubes to cool our mouths down.
The proper Korean name for this dish is actually “비빔국수” and it literally means “mixed noodles”. And it really is that simple. It’s only a little bit harder than making 2-minute noodles as there is slight chopping involved. You just boil some water, pop however much noodles you want to eat into said boiling water, cook for however long the noodle packet says so, mix all the sauce ingredients in one bowl, chuck some thinly sliced cucumber and chopped fancy lettuce, and you are done! Oh yeah, don’t forget to sprinkle a little toasted seaweed on top. But that is literally it.
I christened my noodles “swicy” again as the sauce for this little guy is pretty much identical to the sauce for the Swicy Tofu! Korean cooking is very basic once you see into the Korean food matrix. Red pill is gochujang, soy sauce, sweetener, garlic, and sesame oil and the blue pill (“brown pill” might be more appropriate) being the exact same thing but minus the gochujang. Add ginger to both sauces and there, my friends, you have the basis of most Korean cooking.
When I was testing the recipe out on my family, I decided to avoid the traditional julienne sliced cucumbers and went with a simpler thinly-sliced half moon cucumber slices instead. I preferred it this way but feel free to try both! The toasted sesame seed are optional but if you do have sesame seeds somewhere in the deep recesses of your cupboard, toast a tablespoon full on your frying pan and add it to the sauce. Sesame seeds really do provide a satisfyingly soft crunch and an extra depth to the whole dish.
Another little special touch to this dish is the toasted seaweed for the garnish! Think of this like your parmesan for a spaghetti! You literally heat up the element and when it’s hot grab the corner of the sheet of your normal sushi seaweed and quickly turn the seaweed from on side to the other until it crisps up and goes slightly lighter in colour. This makes the seaweed crisper and more flavoursome as you are caramelising the sugars in the seaweed! (Don’t call me out on my science.)
And as usual, SEASON TO TASTE! You think you won’t be able to handle the spice? Halve the gochujang! Not salty enough? More soy sauce! You can also just cancel the whole gochujang if you can’t do spice at all — soy sauce mixed noodle is totally a thing and you may omit the spice if she is not the one for you.
And lastly, go to your local Korean grocery store, ask for the staff at the counter to show you where the noodles for “비빔국수” is. JUST SHOW THEM THIS AND ZOOM IN ON THIS KOREAN! 안녕하세요, 비빔국수 면 좀 추천해 주세요, 데헷 ^^ Can’t be bothered with all this? You can probably just buy the soba noodles they sell at Countdown or something but the noodles won’t have that lovely bouncy mouth feel. Think Chinese-style thin noodles; just don’t get rice sticks and vermicelli noodles! I used a special buckwheat noodle for this particular recipe but you can use any as long as they are thin.
So here we go, I think I’ve covered everything. The hot summer days are slipping through our fingers!! How about my Swicy noodles for dinner tonight to commemorate the cheap cucumber season?
- 200g of thin noodles of your choice
- 1 ½ tbsp of gochujang (can adjust to your taste or omit entirely if too spicy)
- 3 tbsp of soy sauce
- 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of finely minced garlic
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
- 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- 1 whole cucumber
- 1 whole head of fancy lettuce
- 1 sheet of pre-toasted seaweed (instructed as above, may use more than 1 sheet)
- Fill up your pot until it is just two inches below the rim and let it boil with the lid on.
- While the water is boiling, chop the cucumber into thin half moon shapes. Alternatively, you can use a julienne cutter to cut them into 5cm-long skinny strips. Wash the fancy lettuce and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set the chopped veges aside for now.
- When the water boils, put the noodles in. Make sure they are submerged, and keep stirring so nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pot. Follow the cooking time as suggested on the packet.
- Once the noodles are cooked, you can check by trying one of the noodles — they should be bouncy. Make sure to not to boil them over the suggested cooking time! I don’t usually cook them past 4 minutes. The noodles should be thin enough to be cooked in 3ish minutes!
- Drain the noodles over a sieve and run them under some cold water from the tap. Then let the noodles sit in some cold water for a minute, drain again, and let them drip on a sieve
- Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a big bowl. Add the cucumbers now as well as the cooked and drained noodles. Incorporate the noodles and the cucumbers and the sauce into one, adding the lettuce last.
- Toast the seaweed over a hot element as instructed above, then just after you have served a heaping bowlful for yourself, scrunch the crunchy seaweed over your noodles and enjoy!
The noodles will last overnight in a air tight container in the fridge but the texture of the noodles will change so I suggest to eat it as soon as you can! These noodles also go fantastically with Korean BBQ so get cracking! Swicy noodle it is tonight!