Think Outside the Bowl: Easy Cold Noodle Combos That Beat the Heat and Hit the Spot

Here’s how to put together a mix-and-match meal in no time.

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June 29, 2021
By: Joy Cho

Photo by: Joy Cho

Joy Cho

With temperatures ramping up and summer in full swing, a bowl of cold noodles make for a quick, easy meal that provides all the satisfaction of its hot counterpart — sans all the effort and cooking. Chilled noodles show up often in traditional Asian cuisine: cold soba or udon accompanied with dipping sauce; mul naengmyeon (chewy Korean noodles served in a cold beef broth); and bibim naengmyeon (broth-less strands mixed with a spicy-sweet gochujang-based sauce) are all common and delicious dishes.

But cold noodles can easily go beyond these classic interpretations. Take a look in your fridge or pantry, and you’ll find a whole world of possibilities for potential sauces and dressings — from Dijon mustard and tahini to miso and Sriracha. The particular draw of cold noodles is their simplicity: cook and rinse your noodles (soba, somen and udon are good options), stir up a few sauce ingredients and top your bowl with your favorite vegetables, protein and garnishes. A fresh and filling lunch can be whipped up in as little as 15 minutes, barely using the stove.

Use the ideas below as a starting point for your cold noodle adventures, whether you prefer something savory, creamy or spicy. Get creative with your garnishes — nearly anything goes, including any leftovers, though I’m partial to rounding out my bowl with roasted vegetables and a sunny egg on top. The following sauce recipes yield 1-2 servings (depending on how saucy you prefer your noodles), so it’s a breeze to throw together a solo meal whenever necessity — or the craving — strikes.

Photo by: Joy Cho

Joy Cho

Prepare Your Noodles: Cook 1-2 servings of soba, udon or somen according to package instructions. Drain and rinse the noodles thoroughly with cold running water.

Make Your Sauce: Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl, then adjust seasoning to taste. Give any (or all) of these ideas a whirl!

  • Creamy Miso: 4 tsp Kewpie Mayonnaise + 2 tsp white miso + 1 tsp mirin + 1/2 tsp honey
  • Mustard and Shallot: 5 tsp Dijon mustard + 2 tsp honey + 2 tsp finely diced shallots + 1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar + freshly ground black pepper
  • Parm and Black Pepper: 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan + 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil + 1/2 tsp garlic powder + salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • Sweet and Spicy Soy: 2 tsp soy sauce + 2 tsp chili garlic sauce + 2 1/2 tsp honey + 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil + 1/2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • Peanut-Sriracha: 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter + 2 tsp Sriracha + 2 tsp mirin + 2 tsp soy sauce
  • Tahini-Yogurt: 1/4 cup tahini + 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt + 3 tsp lemon or lime juice + 2 tsp cold water + 1 tsp honey + salt + chili powder to taste

Top Your Bowl: Add noodles to a bowl and mix with your preferred amount of sauce, then garnish as desired (you can also mix in the toppings with the noodles). Choose any combination of these ingredients:

  • Greens, such as arugula, spinach, chopped romaine lettuce or microgreens
  • Herbs, such as cilantro, parsley or basil
  • Red or green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • Julienned carrots or thinly sliced radishes
  • Roasted vegetables, such as cauliflower, asparagus or sweet potatoes
  • Canned or fresh sweet corn
  • Chickpeas
  • Pan-fried firm tofu
  • Soft-boiled or fried egg
  • Nori strips
  • Chopped roasted peanuts
  • Diced scallions
  • Furikake

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