Kong-guksu or Korean thin noodles in soy milk soup is a delicious and refreshing way to cool off in the hot summertime. But making soy milk takes a long time and lots of work to make. So the dish is usually consumed outside of the home. This recipe is a hack to quickly and easily make a dish almost as good as what you would buy in the markets. This recipe can be made in about thirty minutes.
The picture above was taken in Namdaemun market just off of hairtail alley. We had spent the morning shopping (mostly looking) in Namdaemun market. We were looking at Korean traditional dresses, cookware shops, and fresh vegetable vendors. It was mushroom season and the varieties of mushrooms were mind-blowing.
We were walking thru hairtail alley checking out all of the restaurants selling braised hairtail (beltfish or galchi). But since I have gout beltfish was not on the menu. One street over my wife spotted a sign saying kong-guksu. She stepped in and asked if it was vegetarian. They said yes but they only had two bowls left so this was the place we picked for lunch.
A little note here when she asked if the dish was vegetarian, she confirmed no animal broth. Quite often, in Korea, they do not consider animal broth to be meat, which is quite surprising in a country with a long history of Buddhism.
When dining out in Korea, it is hard to find Vegan places to eat. If a place is not labeled as vegan or temple food, expect plenty of land mines. Side dishes like the kimchi pictured below will often have anchovy or shellfish. The bowl of noodles was vegetarian but came with an egg on top.
We arrived toward the end of lunch and they had slowed down so we did have time to talk to the owner. She told us that she made a new batch of soy milk every day. She preferred to make her own rather than buy it in the market to control quality. The soy milk she can buy in the market from the tofu makers has less pulp and is thinner. The pulp is what goes into tofu and is what the tofu makers want.
The process she uses to make her soy milk takes about twenty-four hours. When she arrives at the shop for the day, she starts to soak soybeans. After the lunch crowd leaves, she will grind and cook the beans to make the soy milk. Then she adds her special touches like black sesame seeds, salt, etc., then she lets it chill overnight. The next morning it is ready to serve customers. She sells out every day, usually before one PM. Hopefully, her business has survived all of the craziness.
For the most part, I do not have the time to make homemade soy milk. But using this recipe, we can have tasty kong-guksu in about thirty minutes. It’s not as good as the one we had in Namdaemun but is still really good.
Noodles: Since this is a noodle dish, we need noodles. I prefer to use thin, dried noodles. But use any noodles that you like.
Tofu: This will add some body and protein to the soup. It’s not the same as freshly made soy milk, but this way is quicker.
Peanut butter: My preference is natural peanut butter with as few ingredients as possible. After getting a natural peanut butter home, I will give it a good stir to incorporate the oil and store it in the refrigerator. This way, I do not have to stir it every time I want to use it.
Sesame seeds: My preference is to use a mix of black and white ones toasted. Suppose you do not have the black ones; just use more of the toasted ones.
Raw sugar: A little sweetness helps to balance out the flavor. Raw sugar is about as close to what Korean websites will call brown sugar as I can buy in American markets. In Korean markets, what they sell as brown sugar looks like raw sugar to me. But since I have gout, I do not use it very much. But feel free to add more if you want.
Salt: Yes, it needs some salt; how much it needs depends upon how much is in the peanut butter and your taste. Gout sufferers need to limit sodium intake, so adjust accordingly.
Plant-based milk: You can use any unsweetened plant-based milk that you like. Traditionally the soup is made with soy milk but feel free to experiment. My preference is thick oat milk.
The longest part of this is cooking the noodles, so place a big pot of water on the burner and bring it to a boil.
While the pot of water is coming to a boil, add all of the soup ingredients to a blender. Blend them up and taste. If bland, add some salt; if you want some sweetness and sugar, add more tofu if too thin. Blend again and taste. If you’re happy with it, place the soup in the refrigerator while preparing the noodles.
Go ahead and get your bowls and Bachan ready. After the pot of water has come to a boil, add your noodles and cook according to package directions. At the same time they are cooking, place a strainer in the sink. If you’re going to add ice cubes to the soup, get them ready.
After the noodles have cooked, strain them and rinse with cold water. While rinsing, turn them over to ensure all the noodles get washed. Use caution. The noodles could still be hot. Washing the noodles will stop them from cooking, remove excess surface starch, and cool them down.
When the noodles are cool, place them into your bowl, add your milk soup, ice cubes if you are using them, and garnish however you would like. Some possible garnishes included sesame seeds, bean powder, or cucumber.
If you enjoyed this recipe perhaps you will like my Bindaetteok recipe.
- 360 Grams Noodles Preferably thin, 4 servings
- 8 oz Firm tofu
- 4 Tablespoons Sesame seeds Toasted
- 2 Tablespoons Black sesame seeds
- 3 Tablessons Peanut butter
- 1 Tablespoon Raw sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 3 Cups Plant based milk Unsweetened
- Place a large pot of water on the burner and bring to a boil.
- Place all soup ingredients into a blender and blend.
- Taste the soup and adjust as necessary. Place the soup into the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Cook the noodles according to package directions and strain.
- Give the noodles a good rinse under cold water, place into bowls, add the soup and garnish.