Valentine’s Day is known all around the world and many of our readers will be familiar with the East Asian tradition of following it up with White Day. In Japan and Korea, women are expected to give chocolates to the men in their lives, in some cases to every man they know (referred to as giri choco, or “obligatory chocolate” in Japan). White Day arose as a way to balance the inequity (or maybe just to sell more sweets). On March 14th, men are supposed to give sweets to the women they return feelings for. Sadly for the women, they are usually white sweets like marshmallows, hard candies, white chocolate or something else similarly boring. While men are not obligated to give sweets to women they do not have feelings for, they are expected to spend 3-4 times as much as the gift they received was worth.

South Korea has innovated a new holiday along the same theme: Black Day! Black Day falls on April 14th and is celebrated by people who didn’t receive anything for either of the more well-known love-themed holidays. On Black Day, single people all over the country get together to eat a dish of black noodles called jjajangmyeon, which is a well-known Korean comfort food. It consists of noodles in a sauce made of black soybeans with veggies and protein (typically pork or seafood). Similar to curry udon, it’s not incredibly healthy but is extremely satisfying!

Black Day celebrations are not restricted to jjajangmyeong, so sales of foods such as coffee and foods with squid ink as an ingredient tend to spike on April 14th. Though it sounds sad, many people have started celebrating the holiday with gusto. There are even competitions to speed-eat the noodles!

▼ Handsome K-pop artist Lee An certainly doesn’t look like he’s hating his singledom!

If you really get into this kind of holiday, South Korean marketers have assigned a love-themed day to the 14th of each month. I like the idea of frolicking in parks with bottles of soju on Green Day in August. In fact, I may just try that, partner or not! Another highlight is Movie Day on November 14th, when couples go to “DVD bang,” which are businesses that rents out small rooms allegedly to watch movies. However, in a country where most people live with their families until they get married, they are well-known as cheap places to get frisky.

If you’d like to celebrate Black Day too, follow the recipe below to make your own jjajangmyeon!

You’ll need:

  • 1 pack of black bean sauce mix
  • 1 serving of noodles like kalguksu
  • 2 oz. dried black mushrooms
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/3 daikon
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • sesame oil
  • vegetable oil
  • water

I’m using a powdered mix for the sauce, but if you’d like to cook it from scratch, I’d recommend checking out Eat Your Kimchi and Maangchi.

▼ If you’re a lazy cook (or just can’t see through your tears to measure accurately)
you’ll want to look for this mix.

Black Bean Sauce Mix

I’ll be cooking it with black mushrooms instead of meat, making it suitable for vegetarians, herbivores and lonely animal-lovers everywhere. I’m trying out dried king black mushrooms, which need to be soaked for about 30 minutes in cold water before cooking.

King Black Mushrooms

▼ They are black and twisted just like my lonely heart!

Dried Black Mushroom

▼ Make sure they are completely submerged, keeping in mind that they will expand slightly.

Soaking Mushrooms

While you wait, you can go ahead and chop the other ingredients. I’m using potato, carrot, daikon, zucchini, onion and garlic.

Why hold back on the onion and garlic? If you’re celebrating Black Day, you don’t have to worry about anyone smelling your breath!


Chop all the veggies and mince the garlic. If you’re unfamiliar with daikon, the little hairy-looking roots may put you off a bit. They’re perfectly fine, but if you don’t like the texture you can just pinch them off. There’s no real reason to peel the daikon or carrots as long as you’ve scrubbed them well. Just chop as they are!


You may want to keep them separate, as it’s easiest to cook them one kind at a time, especially if you’re making a lot. The next step is to sauté the veggies in a little oil. I used a mixture of sesame oil and corn oil. The sesame oil has a very nice flavor, but I like to cut it with something lighter so it’s not overpowering. I used about 50% of each kind of oil.


▼ The carrots and daikon can be cooked together. They are about the same hardness,
so they will cook for about the same length of time.

Root Veggies

▼ The zucchini is the softest veggie I’m using, so it gets the pan to itself.


When the mushrooms are done soaking, drain off the water and cut them into small pieces. These mushrooms have a leathery texture, so I cut them into small pieces. They do soften as they cook, but you’ll still probably want them on the small side anyway. 

▼ Cut them into strips, then into pieces about the size of a fingernail.

Cutting Mushrooms

Be sure there’s no excess water on the outside before you fry them or the oil can splatter. 

▼ You’ll want to avoid the pain of hot oil… unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Cooking Mushrooms

These mushrooms actually smell and taste meaty after they’ve been cooked.

Once you’ve sautéed all your ingredients, put them all in a pot and add 2 1/2 cups of water. Simmer them all together until they soften. They should be about as soft as the vegetables in stew or Japanese curry.


▼ Mix the powder with 3½ ounces of water and mix until it’s smooth.


▼ Add this to your vegetables and stir until the sauce is thick enough to coat the veggies.


▼ You can see that it makes enough to eat all week!

Finished Sauce

Cook enough noodles for a single serving (or two servings, if you’re an emotional eater). I used fresh kalguksu, which is pleasantly soft and doughy, much as my thighs will be after gorging on them. Arrange the noodles in a bowl.

▼ A circular pattern can symbolize the unending cycle of heartbreak.


▼ Top with a generous helping of the veggie mixture.


▼ Julienned cucumber is a typical garnish, but I chose a more suitable one for Black Day.
Can you spot it?


▼ Table for one.


Enjoy (if you can) with your favorite beverage, liked iced espresso.

▼ Here’s one kind of noodle you won’t be “Lady and the Tramping.”


▼ Black Day: not just for humans!

Black Cat Day

You can finish your meal with some dark chocolate, if you’re not already feeling too bittersweet. Well, I’m off to find myself the blackest stout I can and figure out how to order a “love pillow.” After all, I’ve got to get ready for Kissing Day in June!

Sources: Reuters, Smithsonian, Koreabridge
Images: RocketNews24