Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)

Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)
Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)
Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad (막국수 Makguksu)

Cold Makguksu (막국수) and hot summer go together like hot chocolate and cold winter. There’s just something curiously cooling about all the fresh crunchy vegetables and cold buckwheat noodles(메밀국수 maemil guksu) mixed together. But then again, nothing curious about it I guess, since maemil/buckwheat IS a cooling food. Buckwheat is so effective in cooling your body that almost every adult in Korea knows that it can cause diarrhea in people with a sensitive and cold stomach.

When I lived in India with my parents, we ate cold maemil noodles at least once a week. The HOT New Delhi weather just screamed for these cooling, soothing noodles. FYI, the temp in New Delhi, India can get over 110°For 45°C in the summer!! “I think my head is melting!!! I can’t walk another step!!!! ” haha.. This is what I actually yelled to my brother when we got lost in New Delhi 3 days after arriving there. My brother swore he knew the way from school to our house and so he just set off walking…I kept saying let’s wait for our car but noooo…Mr. smarty pants ;) knew the way and couldn’t wait. My brother was in 11th grade and I was only in 5th grade – so I simply did not have the courage to stay behind, alone, not knowing a single word of English. Needless to say, I did my utmost to learn English after that! :))

Buckwheat, maemil, soba all refer to the same thing – seeds from a broad leaf plant related to rhubarb.

Buckwheat Maemil flower
Buckwheat Maemil flower – taken during a summer trip to Bongpyong(봉평)

Maemil (Korean Buckwheat) noodles usually have bits of black specks in them which is the skin of the maemil seed. Having no gluten, the typical chewy texture you get with flour noodles are missing in these noodles. However, its unique earthy flavor makes it very flavorful unlike the kind of plain tasting flour noodles. Because of lack of gluten, often times, some flour is mixed in the dough. So be aware of this fact when you buy or eat maemil noodles.

Mak (pronounced mahk) can mean ‘just’ or ‘whatever’. So some Koreans say Makguksu means noodles that was JUST freshly pressed from the noodle machine and then others say Makguksu means noodles that is made in a rough, haphazard way. Whatever the right answer is – the important thing is that it’s very refreshing, cooling and also very healthy. It’s also low-calorie, gluten free food.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Perricone’s superfoods (from

Buckwheat Protein’s Unique Health-Promoting Properties:

  • The specific characteristics of buckwheat proteins, and the relative proportions of its amino acids, make buckwheat the unsurpassed cholesterol-lowering food studied to date.
  • Its protein characteristics also enhance buckwheat’s ability to reduce and stabilize blood sugar levels following meals—a key factor in preventing diabetes and obesity.
  • Like the widely prescribed “ACE” hypertension drugs, buckwheat proteins reduce the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), thereby reducing hypertension.

In addition, according to Korean traditional medicine book 동의보감 Dongyi bogam – maemil helps with digestion and constipation by helping the stomach and spleen function properly so all around, it’s indeed a superfood!

Servings: 4                           Cooking Time: 25                        Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 package maemil (buckwheat) noodles
  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 english cucumber, julienned
  • 1 small bunch curly endive or chicory (치커리) – is available as ssam veggie in Korea
  • 4-5 romaine lettuce leaves, cut into strips
  • 4-5 perilla leaves, cut into strips
  • a handful of ssukkat (crown daisy)
  • 2 green chili peppers
  • 1/2 red onion (missing from picture)
  • 1 chicken breast (missing from picture)

For the sauce

  • 2~3 T red chili powder(고추가루 gochukaru)
  • 5 T chicken broth (unsalted)
  • 1 T onion, grated
  • 1 T pear, grated
  • 1 T radish, grated
  • 3 T sugar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 3 T + 1~2 tsp vinegar
  • 3 T sesame oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp maesil syrup (optional)
  1. Boil chicken breast in water until fully cooked. (15 min. or so) Let it cool.
  2. Make the sauce by mixing in all of the sauce ingredients. Tip: Make sauce ahead and let the flavor fully develop overnight in the fridge. For easy prep, use a blender/chopper to finely blend onion, pear and radish altogether. And use the broth made from step 1 for the sauce.
  3. Prepare ingredients below:
    Vegetables for Makguksu(막국수)
    Vegetables for Makguksu(막국수)

    Thinly julienne carrots, red bell pepper and red onions. Cut cucumbers into thin slices and then cut lengthwise. Cut cabbage, perilla leaves and romain lettuce into 1/2 in wide strips. Cut curly endive, ssukkat into 3 in long pieces. Cut green chilis into thin slices – like so~

    Veggies for Buckwheat noodle salad (막국수 Makguksu)
    Veggies for Buckwheat noodle salad (막국수 Makguksu)
  4. Tear or cut the chicken breast into strips.
  5. Boil water and cook buckwheat (maemil) noodles according to package directions. Rinse noodles in cold water 2-3 times to until noodles are completed cooled. Drain.
  6. Plate the noodles and vegetables. Serve the sauce and mix at the table. Drizzle some sesame oil and sesame seeds at the end.  For extra nuttiness, add chopped peanuts or pine nuts as garnish.

Plating suggestion for party – make small noodle piles when serving for group of people. Along with the veggies on the side so people can choose what they want to mix in.

Plating suggestion for family – just get a large bowl and mix everything together and dig in!

Makguksu (막국수) close up - Buckwheat noodles with chicken and veggies
Makguksu (막국수) close up – Buckwheat noodles with chicken and veggies


Noodles – if you can’t buy Korean maemil noodles, you can substitute Japanese soba noodles or even just plain flour noodles.

Vegetables – use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge and it can work. Just try to have some that’s crunchy (carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, cabbage), something leafy (lettuce, frisee, curly endive, etc) and then something aromatic and flavorful (ssukkat, perilla leaves, green onions, onions, green chilis).

Sauce – use the sauce for a quick side salad to any Korean meal!


Noodles in Black Bean Sauce (간짜장면 Kaan Jajangmyeon)

Noodles with Black Bean Sauce (짜장면 Jjajang Myeon)
Noodles with Black Bean Sauce (짜장면 Jjajangmyeon) jajangmyeon
Noodles with Black Bean Sauce (간짜장면 Kaan Jajangmyeon)

In almost every Korean drama, you will see characters devour this black sauce noodle dish-ending with black sauce all around their mouths. And it’s almost always in an office setting or at home, where these are delivered in a steel or plastic box. Jajangmyeon (짜장면) or JJajangmyeon is actually a Chinese dish, introduced in 1905 by a Chinese chef in Incheon. Since then, it has fully become part of the Korean culture, invoking all sorts of memories for many Koreans young and old. There’s even a saying among Koreans about how a move to a new home is not complete unless you order Jajangmyeon at the end of a long moving day. For every Korean neighborhood, there’s always a Chinese restaurant nearby and delivery is a must.

Few days ago, in one of my TV favorite show – “Dad, where are you going?”(아빠 어디가? Appa Uh-diga?)- I watched Jjajangmyeon being delivered to a rice field!!? Even the dads were surprised to see the food when it came. Now, I call that service! In many ways, Jjajangmyeon is equivalent to America’s Pizza.

I have been making home made Jajangmyeon since 91′ after I got married (over 20 years?!) at the request of my husband. My recipe has evolved quite a bit over the years and I have to say I’m quite happy with this one. When I gave it to my daughter for tasting, she happily chanted “Your Jajangmyeon tastes better than the restaurant version!”. And the best part is, there is no MSG!

Couple things to note about different kinds of Jajangmyeons –

  • 간짜장면 Kaan Jajangmyeon – more intense flavor because the sauce is condensed (just black bean paste and vegetables, little water) also more expensive
  • 짜장면 Jajangmyeon – water or broth added to Kaan Jajang so it’s milder in flavor
  • 삼선간짜장면 Samseon Kaan Jajangmyeon – ‘sam’ means 3 and ‘seon’ means taste. Traditionally, it contains 3 kinds of seafood like squid, sea cucumber and shrimp in addition to pork and veggies.
  • 사천짜장면 Sahcheon Jajangmyeon – Sahcheon (사천) means Szechuan. as with many things Szechuan, it had added spiciness

The version I’m making here is Kaan Jajang. You can easily make regular Jajangmyeon by adding more water or broth.


Servings: 3                    Cooking Time:  35 min                           Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients for Kaan Jajangmyeon

  • 1/2 C Chinese black bean paste (춘장 chunjang/choonjang)
  • 1/2 C or 3 fresh, dried or fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • 3 oz (80g) pork loin, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 C cabbage, chopped
  • 1/2 C zucchini, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped (optional)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned (as garnish)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 C water
  • 1/2 C + 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 pack of fresh noodles for jajangmyeon or kal guksu

In Korea, this Jinmi Chunjang (진미 춘장) is the standard black bean paste to use for Jajangmyeon. They used to have MSG in it but not any more so that’s a good thing. :)

Jinmi 춘장 Choonjang (Chinese Black Bean Paste)
Jinmi 춘장 Choonjang (Chinese Black Bean Paste)



  1. Prepare ingredients below:
Vegetables and pork for jjajang
Vegetables and pork for jjajang

*See the lovely yellow carrot?! The pretty carrot is from my farm – we grew some colored carrots this summer and I decided to add the carrot for additional flavor. Carrot is totally optional but is a great way to hide additional nutrition for kids. I loved these carrots so much, I decided to take a picture –

colored carrots from our farm
colored carrots from our farm-more beta carotene than regular carrot

2. Chop all vegetables into small cubes.

Chopped vegetables for Jjajang Myeon
Chopped vegetables for Jjajang Myeon

3. In a non-stick frying pan, add equal amount of chunjang and oil to pan on medium/medium low heat. Should be bubbling but not burning. Stirring often, cook for 7 min.

stir frying jjajang in oil
stir frying jajang (black bean paste) in oil

Lot of oil will be leftover after stir frying the paste.

Jjajang sauteed in oil
Jjajang sauteed in oil (after 7 min of cooking)

4. WHILE the choonjang is cooking, in ANOTHER pan, add 2 T oil to pan on medium heat. Sauté just onions and cabbages for 10 min or more until onions become translucent. This will make your sauce taste sweeter!

stir frying onions and cabbages
cooked onions and cabbages

5.  Remove chunjang from pan. It should be easy to bunch up the cooked chunjang and remove from oil. Like so-

chunjang cooked in oil
chunjang cooked in oil

6. Discard the leftover oil in pan.

7. Remove onions and cabbages from pan and set aside. Sauté pork on med-high heat for 2-3 min in the same pan.

8. Once pork is cooked, return onions, cabbages to pan. Add 1 T oil and remaining vegetables. Sauté all ingredients on med-high heat for 5 – 7 min. Veggies should still be slightly crunchy.

9. Add the cooked chunjang paste to pan (step 8) and stir everything, making sure the paste coats the ingredients evenly.

Jjajang sauce with vegetables
Jajang sauce with vegetables for jajangmyeon

10. Stir fry for 2 min. Add 1 C water and 1 T sugar. Cook until the sauce is reduced to half. Reduce further for more condensed flavor.

11. Fresh noodles (국수 guksu) are best for Jajangmyeon. If you can buy one’s that says “짜장면 국수”, it should work fine. Believe it or not, I could not find it at my local market. Probably because not many Koreans make Jajangmyeon at home in Korea. I bought 칼국수 (Kalguksu/Kalgooksoo) and that worked fine. Just cook the noodles in boiling water for 7-10 min (based on package directions) and rinse in cold water.

fresh Korean noodle package
fresh Korean noodle package (생 칼국수 saeng kalgooksoo)

12. Sauce is now ready!

KaanJjajangmyeon sauce
Kaan Jjajangmyeon sauce (간짜장)

Just add noodles or rice to a bowl and top with this amazingly yummy Kaanjajang sauce!

Jjajang Bap (짜장밥) - Rice with Black Bean Sauce
Jajang Bap (짜장밥) – Rice with Black Bean Sauce


  • How to make Jajangmyeon/Jjajang myeon? – In step 8, instead of reducing the sauce, just add 1 T corn starch mixed with 1/4 C water to the sauce and stir. The jajang sauce should thicken up and there you go!
  • Choonjang(춘장) and Jajang(짜장) are used interchangeably when referring to the black bean paste. Sometimes you may find 볶음짜장(bokkeum jajang) which means it’s already been fried in oil which means you can skip step 3.
  • Meat substitutions – use beef or chicken instead of pork and it will still taste great!
  • For richer sauce, use chicken broth instead of water. Watch out for saltiness though since chicken broth already has quite a bit of sodium. Use low sodium chicken broth or maybe half broth and half water.

Korean Glass Noodles (잡채 Japchae/Chopchae)

Chop Chae/Jap Chae (Korean Glass Noodles)
chop chae/jap chae(잡채) - Korean Glass Noodles
chopchae/japchae(잡채) – Korean Glass Noodles

If you have ever been to a Korean restaurant, chances are you probably have had chopchae/japchae(잡채), either as a menu item or as a side dish. And if side dish was the only way you had it – then I’m afraid you probably had a very poorly made chopchae. It sometimes makes me mad when I see restaurants serve this most delicious noodle dish as a side dish that’s missing most of its ingredients (98% noodles and then maybe some little specks of vegetables once in a blue moon and no evidence of beef anywhere). Either that or it’s been reheated so many times that it has just morphed into something else.

There’s also a phrase that always comes to mind when I think about chopchae: the ‘Execute Mr. Chae’ dish… So here’s the story. My father was a diplomat and he had a very good friend who was the US Ambassador to Korea in the early 80s. We had dinner together at a Korean restaurant in DC one time, and the ambassador said that he loved chopchae and wanted to order it. And then he said “Do you know how I memorized the name of this dish? It’s the “execute” = “chop” Mr. Chae dish!” I thought it was a bit bizarre but also hilarious and very ingenious of him…and so this phrase has always stuck with me ever since.

The recipe I introduce here is the way my mom used to make at home for the holidays and big parties. I believe it’s the way many moms of the past generation used to make it — in the old days when mothers spent many hours if not days cooking for big families and guests.  All the ingredients are sauteed separately and then mixed together at the end. Because this can be quite time-consuming, many recipes you see today may tell you to saute the ingredients altogether at the same time. This may be easier to make but it’s not the authentic way of making it. And in my opinion, it produces almost a different kind of dish-one that is more wet and with the vegetables that are kind of mushy.  The authentic recipe below takes a bit of work and that’s probably why it’s known to be a janchi eumshik(잔치음식) = party food. But I think it’s well worth the effort. One simply could not have a true janchi (party) without chopchae.



Servings: 6                     Prep Time: 30 min         Cooking Time: 30 min                  Difficulty: Medium


  • 4 T canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 5-6 oz beef stew meat, cut into thin strips
  • 1 large or 2 small carrot, julienned (approx 1 C)
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 10 oz Korean glass noodles/cellophane noodles (당면 Dangmyeon)
    • about 2/3 of a 500 g/17 oz package
  • 1 C fresh or 1/2 dried wood ear mushroom (목이버섯 mokibeoseot)
    • substitution/addition – dried shitake or oyster mushrooms

Beef marinade

  • 2 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 ~ 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 1/4 tsp fresh chopped garlic)

Seasoning for the Dangmyeon  (Glass Noodles) – for 8 C cooked

  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 2 T sugar
  • 3 T sesame oil


beef cut into strips for chop chae
beef cut into strips for chop chae

1. Cut beef into thin strips, against the grain. If you want an easy way out, you can also use bulgogi meat cut into smaller pieces.

2. Mix the beef marinade in a bowl big enough to hold the beef. Add the beef, massage it with your hands and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare the vegetables. I used garlic powder here because the garlic flavor doesn’t need to be very strong in this dish but you can certainly use fresh garlic if you prefer.

3. Boil 8-10 C of water in a pot and cook the dangmyeon according to package instructions(e.g.6 min) or until the noodles become clear and is soft all the way to the center of the noodle. More water is better than too little since the glass noodles soak quite a bit of water.

4. Once the noodles are cooked, rinse in cold water and drain. While noodles are still warm, season them with soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Cut the noodles with scissors a few times so they are easier to eat. Coating the noodles with oil will keep the noodles from sticking together.

cooked glass noodles (dangmyeon)
cooked glass noodles (dangmyeon)

5.Wash the spinach. Boil another pot of salted water (6 C or so + 1 tsp salt) and quickly blanch them. Do not cook the spinach more than 1 minute. Spinach should be still a bit chewy and not too mushy. Shock the cooked spinach in cold or ice water to stop the cooking process.

Drain the water and squeeze out any excess water from the spinach by squeezing them gently in your hand.

washed spinach for chop chae
washed spinach for chop chae
Blanched spinach with water squeezed out
blanched spinach with water squeezed out








6.Season the blanched spinach with some salt (1 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tsp). Set aside.

7. If using dried mushrooms: soak them in some warm water for 10 min or so until they are fully hydrated.

8. Clean the fresh or rehydrated mushrooms by rubbing each mushroom under cold running water. Sometimes dirt/sand are buried in the mushroom (especially the part that’s a bit bumpy like a towel) so make sure all the dirt is washed off. You can also cut off the ends that has the dirt.

fresh wood ear mushrooms (목이버섯 mokibeoseot)
fresh wood ear mushrooms (목이버섯 mokibeoseot) – the white/yellowish part is the area that sometimes have dirt

Cut mushrooms into 1/3 to 1/2 in wide strips. If using shitake mushrooms, slice them into 1/4 in thick slices. Set aside.

9. Julienne carrots and onions and set aside.

raw onion and carrot slices for chop chae
raw onion and carrot slices for chopchae

10. Saute each of the ingredients separately and let them cool. You can save yourself the trouble of washing more pans by using one frying pan and sauteing ingredients one by one in the following order: onions -> carrots -> mushrooms -> beef. Just wipe off any excess oil and crumbs with a paper towel after cooking each ingredient and you should be good to go!

10.1  Add 1 T oil in frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and sprinkle a pinch of salt. Saute until onions become transparent but not brown.

10.2 Add 1 T oil in frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots and a pinch of salt. Saute carrots until they are soft and tender.

10.3 Add 1 T oil in frying pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Saute for 3 mins or so and the mushrooms should be done.

10.4 Add 1/2 T oil in frying pan on medium-high heat. Saute the beef until they are fully cooked. If there are any extra juices in the pan, cook a little more until it’s evaporated.

11. Transfer each of the onions, carrots, mushrooms and beef to a plate and let them cool.

cooked mushrooms, carrots, onions, spinach and beef for chop chae
cooked mushrooms, carrots, onions, spinach and beef for chopchae

12. It’s time to put everything together! Add all the cooked vegetables and beef to the noodles and mix them altogether. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds. Taste some noodles with the vegetables and the beef. Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce and sugar as needed. Unless you like things less salty and sweet, it will taste better if you add more soy sauce, (2 tsp ~ 1 T),  sugar (2 tsp ~ 1 T)  and a dash of sesame oil and black pepper as the final finishing touch.

chop chae
chopchae is now done!

That’s it! Enjoy it with some rice and other main dishes. Because chopchae is very mildly flavored, it goes well with a lot of things but it goes particularly well with other party dishes like kalbijjim, ddukguk and mandoo (dumplings). Because this is a lot of work, when we make it for ourselves, we usually have this as our main dish with some rice and maybe some soup or jjigae.


  • What is Dangmyeon and what brand should I buy? Dangmyeon is a dried noodle made from 100% sweet potato so it’s a great gluten free food. It is quite chewy and is also low in calories (90 calories per 1 oz). I have not found a lot of difference between the brands so just buy a reputable brand and that should be fine.
  • How to serve, store and reheat chopchae– Chopchae is mostly served at room temperature. It can be served warm too.  Chopchae can be stored at cool room temperature for up to a day. But chopchae will spoil if left out longer than half a day in the summer. It can be stored in the fridge up to a few days. Best way to reheat is to heat in a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring often.
  • Variations –  Pork or imitation crab meat can be used instead of beef. In addition, you can add sauteed green bell peppers (julienned), Chinese chives or even some green chili peppers. Eggs are also sometimes added on top as a garnish. If cooking all the ingredients separately is just too much work for you, you can choose to sautee all of the vegetables together and then the beef. And then mix with the noodles. You will just end up with a more soggy chopchae. Some people actually like it this way and this version works well when served on top of a bowl of rice which is called chap chae bap (잡채밥).