Friday, July 20, 2012

A Refreshing Dish for Summer: Spicy Cold Bi-Bim-Noodles


Just about every (cosmopolitan) eater has heard of Bi Bim Bop.  (Click here for my post on Bi Bim Bop: http://eatingreadingwriting.blogspot.com/2012/01/quasi-homemade-almost-too-easy-bi-bim.html)  Less well known is its counterpart, the bi-bim-nang-myun.  “Nang” refers to something cold, and “myun” is a generic word describing noodles of all sorts (like cha-jang-myun, etc.).  Putting all this together, you can guess that bi-bim-nang-myun is mixed (“bi-bim”) cold noodles.

Now that bi-bim-bop has ensconced itself in the international culinary vocabulary, perhaps its cousin can soon join the ranks.  In fact, more and more, you see in popular cooking magazines and websites recipes for cold spicy Asian noodles.  Bon Appetit’s July issue has instructions for making Cold Sesame Noodles with Summer Vegetables.  (Click here to get that recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/quick-recipes/2012/07/cold-sesame-noodles-with-summer-vegetables

What seems a new-fangled dish in American magazines is something that is very tradition-bound in Asian cultures.  I grew up eating my mother’s bi-bim-nang-myun decades ago, and she grew up eating her mother’s dish, and so on.  Regardless of tradition, I agree that there is definite appeal to cold noodles, especially during this Chicago summer with seemingly innumerable days topping 90 degrees.

If you live near an Asian grocery store, get yourself a package of “nang myun”—Korean dried wheat and buckwheat noodles.  The noodles are grayer in color than the Vietnamese dried noodles you might have seen before.  They are also lighter, longer, and more irregular than Japanese soba noodles you might be familiar with as well.  In any case, if you are able to pick up a bag of noodles, it might include packets of dry seasoning and smaller packets of hot mustard oil with directions in both Korean and English for making a cold noodle soup (pictured below).  The cold soup is the most popular way of enjoying these noodles during the summer.


Not normally in the package directions but still made by Asians, is Bi-Bim-Nang-Myun:

1.  Noodles.
Cooking the noodles requires nothing more than a pot of boiling water and 3-4 minutes of cooking time.  Rinse several times with cold water, and let drain completely.

2.  Sauce.
This gets trickier since everything is “to taste” when it comes to this spicy sauce.  You need something called go-chu-jang (Korean fiery spicy red pepper paste).  Some recipes call for Sriracha (hot chili sauce) since that might be more accessible than go-chu-jang, but the two are quite different.  Sriracha is a bright red versus go-chu-jang’s dark brick red; and sriracha is thin and squirtable while go-chu-jang is definitely a much thicker, pasty substance, like miso.


If you are able to get your hands on some go-chu-jang, you need to mix that with minced garlic, chopped scallions, rice vinegar, sesame oil, a bit of sugar and salt until the seasoning is to your taste.  It should taste much more heavily spiced than you could possibly imagine eating on its own since you are about to mix a lot of ingredients with the sauce.

  
Mix the sauce and the noodles and correct for seasoning.


3.  Toppings.
Two items are indispensable: cooled, chopped bul-go-gi and sliced omelets.  You can get pre-marinated bul-go-gi in many Asian stores to cook at home, or you can follow a very basic recipe here: http://eatingreadingwriting.blogspot.com/2011/11/bul-go-gi-korean-fire-beef.html.  As for the egg, all you need to do is scramble two eggs with a little bit of salt, pour the mixture into a hot and oiled pan, and let it brown on both sides.  Cool and then slice.


Aside from these two indispensable ingredients, I like julienned cucumber (pickling or Persian cucumbers are best for this), carrots, red or orange pepper, scallion.  Once you lay out your toppings on top of the sauced noodles, you can mix the whole concoction together.

Although the noodles will be spicy, the coolness of the noodles and the toppings will keep things under control…


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