Kitchn Love Letters

The $6 Instant Noodles I Stock in My Pantry All Summer Long

published Aug 8, 2023
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Someone picking up paldo bibim men with chopsticks.
Credit: James Park

As soon as the weather turns from warm to too-hot-to-function, I crave all types of cold noodles — especially the spicy, saucy, tangy ones like bibim guksu. As the dish’s name suggests (Bibim means “mixed,” and guksu means “noodles” in Korean) the cold noodles get mixed with a gochujang-based sauce. Its zesty, tangy flavors bring my appetite back almost immediately. 

While I always have all the ingredients to make the dish from scratch, I often reach for my favorite instant version of bibim guksu for a quick fix: Paldo bibim men.

Credit: James Park

What’s So Great About Paldo Bibim Men?

I grew up in Korea, and I have many fond memories of slurping Paldo bibim men when I was a child — especially during summer. At that time, its iconic, spicy-and-tangy sauce was too spicy for me to handle, so my mom would often swish the saucy noodles in water before I slurped them. Or sometimes, she would add ice cubes. (As they melted, it made the noodles less spicy.) It’s funny to think that I already came up with creative ways to enjoy my noodles at such a young age; honestly, not much has changed a few decades later. 

There are so many reasons why I love this noodle besides my happy, nostalgic memories. They are slightly thinner than other instant noodles, mimicking the thin textures of somen noodles, which means they take less cooking time than thicker, brothy noodle soups. And while they’re super easy to make — cook the noodles in boiling water, drain, add the sauce to the noodles, and mix — they are endlessly riffable. 

Credit: James Park

What’s the Best Way to Serve Paldo Bibim Men?

There are a few tricks that I’ve learned over the years after slurping countless packages of bibim men.

First, wash the noodles under cold water to maximize their bouncy, chewy flavors. Washing noodles under cold water may sound odd, but this technique removes residual starch on the noodles, making them extra bouncy, chewy, and delightfully slurpable. I use my fingers to massage and shake the noodles when washing. (You can skip this step if you want, but it makes a huge difference. After all, you want to enjoy bibim men as cold spicy noodles, not warm spicy noodles, to experience their full potential.) 

Second, squeeze out all the extra moisture from the noodles, which is as important as washing them in water. Excess water prevents the sauce from clinging to the noodles, so be sure to use two hands to remove as much moisture as possible. I’m always surprised to see how much water these seemingly dry noodles hold onto when I squeeze them.

Credit: James Park

Lastly, add a splash of toasted sesame oil when mixing the noodles with the sauce. The floral, nutty flavors of toasted sesame oil make mixing the noodles with sauce much easier and add that special touch that takes the noodles from delicious to incredible. Too much oil can overwhelm the spicy, zesty bibim sauce flavors, so use it sparingly.

Just like any instant noodles, choosing different toppings is where I have the most fun. The noodles are fantastic without anything, but so many delicious add-ons complement the noodles: soft-boiled eggs, crunchy cucumber, sliced cabbage, or herbaceous perilla leaves, just to name a few.

I think of Paldo bibim men as a delicious, spicy canvas that I want to add more layers to. In fact, I’ve been adding different types of seafood to the noodles this summer, like shrimp and lobster (!). One of the best summer meals I’ve had this year was lobster bibim men: instant bibim men noodles mixed with juicy, wonderfully briny lobster meat and crushed seaweed.

If you can’t throw a lobster feast like I did (I’m not bragging!), shrimp is just as delicious. Just throw some frozen raw shrimp with the noodles. Shrimp only takes a few minutes to cook, which is just about how long it takes for the noodles too. Toss everything with its signature spicy sauce, and you have a light-yet-flavorful, spicy meal that’s even better than those pricey lobster rolls.

Buy: Paldo Bibim Men, $5.59 for 5 noodle packets at Weee!

What staples are you stocking in your pantry for summer? Tell us in the comments below.