If there is one season in the year that most Koreans dread, its without a doubt the Korean summers. Both the heat and the humidity reach soaring levels, making everyone feel hot and sticky. This is the time when various cold foods, frozen desserts and iced beverages come in high demand, as people try to escape the heat to cool off with their favorite food.
One of the local favorite cold dishes is the all famous traditional soup, named Kong-guksu – (콩국수). This literally translates to ‘bean noodles’ and that is exactly what it is. Noodles in soy bean soup! Kong-guksu is a seasonal dish that appears only when summer nears its arrival. It is served cold and may even contain ice cubes to make it extra refreshing! There will be slight variations regarding the garnish, but most common are slices of cucumber, sesame seeds and occasionally egg. Making it a vegetarian dish, that can easily be veganized. For more vegan food available in Korea, check out our LOCAL FOOD page.
To get your vegan Kong-guksu, you have to always mention that you do not want any egg added. Egg is sometimes added and other times not. But just to stay on the safe side it’s always best to check.
Surprise the locals by remembering this sentence:
Kong-guksu gyeran eobsi juseyo. “콩국수 계란 없이 주세요.” “Please give me Kong-guksu without egg.”
For more useful vegan related words in Korea find our VEGAN WORDS page.
Kong-guksu is a simple but nutritious dish, that is served as the main course. The dish commonly features either thin or thicker noodles made from wheat flour. In general, the flavors of the dish can be described as mild and light.
The soup base is made by blending soy beans and water into a thick soup, making the texture thicker and more creamy than regular soy milk. Restaurants will occasionally add assorted nuts or sesame, resulting in a richer soup with nutty aromas. Black soy beans may also be added, giving the soup a more grayish color. Kong-guksu is usually served only lightly salted (almost bland), each customer is left to decide if they want to add any additional salt or sugar.
It can be found in many Korean restaurants as soon as summer approaches and the temperatures rise. It’s important to mention that Kong-guksu is a seasonal dish, that may not appear on main menu’s but will be advertised on signs and posters that can be seen both inside and outside of local restaurants. It is usually labeled as a ‘summer special’ or ‘seasonal specialty’ and should be hard to miss! Prices for one serving range between 7000 and 12000 KRW, depending on location and quality of ingredients.
When people lose their appetite due to the intense heat of Korean summers, Kong-guksu is a popular meal, since it is not aggressively flavorful, but nourishing and refreshing! It is the ideal way to experience a Korean summer like a true local. Enjoy and stay cool!
Bonnie – alias Bonbon 봉봉 – is a German-Korean foodie currently based in Seoul and the author of Sesame Sprinkles, who has a passion for pursuing colors, tasty scents and veggie-friendly foods.
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