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.
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 Oprah.com):
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)
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)
- Boil chicken breast in water until fully cooked. (15 min. or so) Let it cool.
- 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.
- Prepare ingredients below:
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~
- Tear or cut the chicken breast into strips.
- 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.
- 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!
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!