Because of this I haven’t had naengmyun in over ten years–until yesterday when I took it upon myself to create a vegan version. And I must say, I was blown away–my mom would be impressed by this dish. It’s so savory and flavorful, while being completely detoxifying, cooling, and healthy. The secret to its magical flavor is definitely the combination of sweet, crunchy, sour pickled daikon, and earthy shiitake broth with a hint of mustard. A big bowl of this vegan naengmyun will cool you down even in the worst heat wave. Please feel free to buy packaged buckwheat noodles from a Korean or Asian market, but throw away the powdered packet and follow the rest of this recipe for broth, etc.
Buckwheat is gluten-free and I love the toothy texture especially. In this recipe, I’ve gone with zoodles since it’s so cooling and light during the summer. With zoodles, you’ll basically be getting a big bowl of fresh raw veggies in this dish. I wasn’t able to find Asian pear, which is the traditional garnish–so I used fresh raw enoki mushrooms instead.
Finally, the really delightful part of this dish is the quick-pickled daikon. I used about 1/3 of a medium daikon (about 6″ length, 2.5″ diameter). You can feel free to make more and eat the rest of the daikon later, as it will just become more sweet, sour, and crunchy as it marinates in the fridge. It’s a great snack or a salad topper.
Vegan Naengmyun (Korean Cold Noodle Soup)
- 4 cups water
- 1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1/3 medium daikon, peeled
- 2 medium zucchini, spiralized
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar or sweetener of choice (not maple syrup)
- 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder
- 1/2 kirby cucumber, julienned
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 onion
- 1 oz enoki mushrooms (garnish, optional)
- 1/4 Asian pear, peeled and sliced (garnish, optional)
1. Rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms under cold water, then add to a medium bowl. Add 4 cups filtered water and soak for at least 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are completely softened.
2. In the meantime, peel the outer skin of daikon. Then, use the peeler to get paper thin, wide strips of daikon. You will get a stump of daikon that remains after you peel away most of it–set that aside. Place daikon strips in a large bowl. Add rice vinegar, sweetener, 1 tbsp water, and salt generously. Combine with a fork and put in the fridge to chill for at least 30-40 minutes. The longer it has time to sit, the more daikon will mellow and release its flavors into the juice.
3. Once the mushrooms are softened, transfer the mushrooms and the brine to a medium sauce pan. Add 1 garlic clove, peeled and whole, and 1/2 onion that’s just peeled (not chopped), stub of daikon, mustard powder, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Take off the heat.
4. Bring the broth to room temperature, then transfer to a bowl and put in the freezer to cool quickly.
5. Once the broth is completely cold, you are ready to assemble. Note: The longer you chill the broth and the daikon, the better it’s going to taste, because I had it for lunch *and* dinner, and the flavors really came out more later. 🙂 But you can enjoy it whenever the broth is cold. In a large bowl, add a handful of zoodles, then top with cucumber, carrots, enoki mushrooms or Asian pear (if using). Top with some pickled daikon and the daikon juice (this part is really important!!). Pour the broth on top–you can add shiitake to the bowl, but strain away other veggie chunks. You can also float 1-2 ice cubes in the bowl. 🙂
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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling