Noodles are a staple in Korean cuisine. The history of noodle dishes in Asia can be traced back to 4000 B.C. Preparations with noodles are relatively simple. They are served in stews, soups, stir-fries, and in cold salad dishes.
On a Korean menu, most of the noodle dishes will be identified as myeon or gooksu if they are noodle dishes. The word "myeon" is related to its Chinese counterpart mien, meaning noodles. Noodles in Korea can be made from sweet potato starch, wheat flour, buckwheat, corn flour, rice flour, and acorn flour to name a few.
In general, a number of Korean noodle dishes offer a variation on the meats, broths, vegetables, and noodles used.
Korean stir-fry noodles, known as chapchae or japchae, use glass noodles and a mix of vegetables, meat, mushrooms, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Japchae is typically prepared with dangmyeon, a type of cellophane noodle made from sweet potato starch. These noodles are also called glass noodles or sweet potato vermicelli.
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Naeng myun (or naengmyoen) is a Korean cold noodle dish made of thin, slightly chewy buckwheat noodles topped with egg, meat, vegetables, and a savory, vinegary ice-cold broth. Although it is now a summertime food among Koreans, its origins are from the North Korean mountains as a wintertime staple. Buckwheat grows well in high altitudes, and it became an important dish for Koreans living in the harsh mountain climate. But it is refreshing in hot weather, and it is a one-bowl meal that requires very little time on the stove.
This dish is also great if you follow a gluten-free diet or you are cooking for someone who lives gluten-free. The noodles are typically made of buckwheat, and may also contain sweet potato, plain potato, arrowroot starch, and even kudzu root.
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Japchae is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea, and also seems to be the one that Westerners accept readily. The foundation of the dish is a mixture of the noodles, soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil. This dish uses cellophane or glass noodles, which can be made of mung bean or sweet potato noodles. Both types of noodles absorb tons of flavor, and you can mix and match the vegetables or meat to your liking. Ingredients you can use include broccoli, spinach, cabbage, carrots, onions, red peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and bulgogi beef.
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Korean noodles with black bean sauce (jajangmyun) is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea. It is delicious and satisfying but inexpensive to buy or make, so it is a favorite home-cooked or takeout meal among many people in Korea. It is the Korean adaptation of a Chinese black bean noodle dish with the same name, and you can find it in every Chinese restaurant in Korea. The Korean version of this dish is made with a dark sauce made from a chunking paste containing caramel and roasted soybeans.
It is most common to use wide, thick noodles made from wheat flour for jajangmyun, but if you cannot find any noodles that are intended specifically for this dish, you easily can substitute wide buckwheat noodles or even linguine.