I was at my boyfriend's mother's house the other day when she eagerly showed us a huge, heavy box of noodles she had purchased at her Korean church. These special noodles resembled buckwheat soba, but they contained an unusual ingredient – acorns!
Korean acorn noodles, or dotori guksu, are made from a mixture of acorn flour, buckwheat or wheat flour, and salt. The acorn flour is ground from red or white acorns, which have been eaten in Korea since Neolithic times. Today, acorns are considered a health food, and noodles with a high percentage of acorn flour (over 30 percent) are said to be the best.
I had enjoyed dotori guksu at L.A.'s beloved Korean restaurant Kobawoo, but I had never cooked with them myself and was excited when I received a bag to take home. Although the dry noodles are coarse and rustic-looking, once cooked they turn smooth and wonderfully chewy. The flavor is nutty and slightly sweet.
The noodles cook very quickly – less than five minutes – and are especially good in cold salads (after boiling, rinse the noodles under cold water). I prepared them with fresh vegetables and a dressing of hot pepper paste, vinegar, and sesame oil. Acorn noodles may be substituted for soba in recipes such as Cold Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad. They may also be used in Korean cold noodle soup, or mul naengmyun.
Here's a recipe inspired by the dotori guksu served at Kobawoo restaurant:
• ACORNucopia Noodles, from My Epikorean
If you don't have a Korean mom in your life, you can buy acorn noodles at Korean grocery stores or online at koaMart.
Related: Seasonal Spotlight: Acorns
(Images: Emily Ho)