Is Naengmyeon Healthy? (Read This First!)

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Noodle dishes are a very popular food throughout Korea. 

These incorporate veggies, a little protein, broth, and other ingredients that combine to provide the ultimate in nutrition. 

Cold noodle dishes, like naengmyeon, are one of the most common throughout homes, restaurants and street vendors.

But, is naengmyeon healthy? Yes, it is but it is high in cholesterol and sodium! Regardless, this is a very simple dish where the noodles comprise starches from things like buckwheat, potatoes and sweet potatoes. 

Cucumbers, beef, and broth, along with vinegar and spicy mustard, are the typical ingredients.

Let’s dive deeper.

About Naengmyeon & Its Ingredients

Naengmyeon is a cold noodle dish with a long history in Korea. 

Originally enjoyed as a wintertime food, it Initially came from North Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. 

Today it’s popular to eat during humid summer days.

Naengmyeon has very thin long buckwheat noodles that can also comprise sweet potato, potato, arrowroot powder, and/or kudzu. 

Others have noodles with green tea and seaweed. 

The idea is that the darker the noodle, the better. Some people cut the noodles to make them more manageable to eat.

It comes in a large stainless steel or brass bowl with a tangy broth, pickled radish strips, slices of boiled egg, cold boiled beef and julienned cucumbers. 

Vinegar and spicy mustard oil (or sauce) mix in prior to serving.

Nutritional Value of Naengmyeon

For healthy eaters and those who observe sensibility in their diets, naengmyeon is one of the best things you can consume. 

The typical serving is one very large bowl that has a total of about 500 calories. 

There are only five to 10 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein, and around 90 total grams of carbohydrates.

The concerning factor in this is the sodium and cholesterol, which are 2,740 and 105 milligrams respectively. 

That’s quite high in sodium and a huge amount of cholesterol. 

Therefore, those who are eating to maintain blood pressure, heart issues, and cholesterol levels should avoid eating naengmyeon.

For those who want to lose weight, you will have to balance your exercise regimen within the time you eat this noodle soup. 

You should work out either right before or immediately after eating it. This is why it’s an ideal dish in the sweltering heat of summer, specifically because of the sodium loss from sweating.

Traditional Naengmyeon Recipe

The best way to control the amount of sodium in a bowl of naengmyeon is to make it at home. This recipe is bona fide traditional. 

However, you can adjust and change things to make them more suitable.

Items You’ll Need

  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Container with Lid
  • Measuring Cups & Spoons
  • Small Sauce Pan
  • Large Boiling Pot or Dutch Oven
  • Large Strainer or Colander
  • Cheesecloth or Muslin Cloth
  • 2 Plates

Ingredients

  • 3 Sheets Dried Kelp (5 inches by 5 inches)
  • 18 Cups Cold Water
  • 1½ lbs Beef (brisket or tri-tip)
  • 1 Leek (halved and well washed)
  • 1 White or Yellow Onion (medium-sized, peeled, and halved)
  • 4 Ginger Slices (fresh or pickled)
  • 3 Garlic Bulbs (halved)
  • 1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns
  • 6 Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp Sea Salt (or kimchi salt)
  • 1 Cup Rice Wine, Mirin or Soju
  • ¼ Cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Beef Bullion (powdered or cubes)
  • 12 oz Radish (fresh or pickled Korean or daikon)
  • 1 Cucumber (julienne sliced)
  • 1 package Naengmyeon Noodles (thin and long buckwheat noodles)
  • 4 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Sesame Seeds (to taste)
  • Mustard Oil or Spicy Mustard (to taste)
  • White Vinegar (to taste)
  • Kimchi Juice (optional – to taste)

Directions

  1. With the water and kelp sheets, place into the large pot or Dutch oven, cover and allow it to rest for about 45 minutes.
  2. Fill the small saucepan with water and boil the eggs for 13 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit under cool running water. Set off to the side.
  3. Go back to the large pot and remove the kelp from the water. 
  4. Put the beef into the water along with the beef bullion, soy sauce, salt, peppercorns, rice wine, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, onion and leek. 
  5. Cover and bring to a rolling boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer for an hour and a half.
  6. Once done boiling, let the mixture cool down for about 20 minutes. 
  7. Take the strainer and cheesecloth to strain the beef from the broth. Use the cheesecloth to squeeze out every bit of broth away from the meat and put it on a plate and into the fridge.
  8. Use the strainer and more cheesecloth to remove all bits and pieces from the broth. It should be free and clear of any debris.
  9. Put the broth into a suitable container that has a lid. But, before covering, allow it to cool down to room temperature to avoid moisture buildup that can create the conditions for bacteria and mold. 
  10. Once cool enough, cover and put into the fridge.
  11. Prepare the naengmyeon noodles according to the package directions. Usually, you will boil and then rinse them well under cold water. 
  12. To help with faster cooling, rub them with your hands. Allow the water to drain away from the noodles fully.
  13. Julienne the cucumber, slice the meat and slice the hardboiled eggs. Put these on another plate and set off to the side.
  14. To prepare the soup, mix the broth with some kimchi juice (optional). 
  15. Place a handful of the noodles into a serving bowl and stack with a few slices of beef, pickled radish, cucumber and sliced egg.
  16. Pour the broth into the bowl, so it covers about ¾ of the noodles. 
  17. Pour in some vinegar and mustard oil with a garnish of sesame seeds.

Conclusion

While naengmyeon is a healthy noodle dish, it is high in sodium and cholesterol. 

Therefore, it’s best to eat it in summer, when sweating and loss of body salt is a frequent occurrences. 

Even still, it has many excellent components that help the body stay healthy and nourished.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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