▲ Milnaengmyeon (top), bibimnaengmyeon (bottom left) and kongguksu (bottom right). Photos by Yun Seung-un (top) and Lu Jianwen
I had been in Jeju for about a week, stationed down in Moseulpo. It was late August, which for an Englishman means sweat, followed by more sweat, and a few expletives which loosely rhyme with sweat.
New in town, I decided to go for a wander. 30 minutes later, dripping from all prominent body parts, a Turin Shroud had formed on my chest. A low voice arose out of nowhere. My saviour had arrived.
“We are going for lunch,” said a man poking his head out of a Hyundai.
The local clearly knew the remedy for this pale, heavily perspiring Mr. Bean, about to ruin his car upholstery: “We will eat ice noodles.”
In step with my brow, the stainless steel bowl - thirst-quenching to sight - dripped with condensation. The noodle-encasing soup was tangy and sour, with a penetrating freshness. The noodles - effortlessly slithering down - provided the sustenance.
Five minutes and half a bowl later, the sweating had stopped. Within minutes I had begun to form full sentences again. I vowed never to forget the miraculous properties of “ice noodles.”
Refreshment from the North
The little miracle workers have some more surprises, Ubiquitous in the South, they actually hail from the North, the cities of Pyeongyang and Hamheung providing the most famous varieties.
More surprisingly, perhaps, is that despite being eaten at the height of summer, they are actually a winter food; freezers didn’t exist back then, of course.
Although mulnaengmyeon is regarded as the daddy and standard bearer, many deviant versions exist. Below are a few eating options, for both north and south (Jeju).
Mulnaengmyeon(물냉면), aka Pyeon-gyang Naengmyeon (평양냉면), comes from the North Korean capital. This version is buckwheat noodles served in an icy-cold beef broth topped with slices of cucumbers, asian pears, radish and slices of beef. Mustard sauce and vinegar should be added to taste. Pork is often used instead of beef and when flour is used for the noodles instead of buckwheat it is called milnaengmyeon (밀냉면).
Bibimnaengmyeon(비빔냉면), aka Hamheung Naengmyeon («‘흥냉면) after the North Korean city of its birth, has no cold broth to slurp up, but is bathed in a rich and spicy gochu, or red pepper sauce. The noodles are made from potato or sweet potato starch and are chewy compared to the buckwheat of the mul-naengmyeon.
Seogwipo: Daedonggang (대동강)330-24 Seogwi-dong, Seogwipo City
Makguksu (막국수) is very similar to mulnaengmyeon, but has a higher concentration of buckwheat flour in the noodles. There are also more vegetables used in the dish, reflecting the dish’s roots in Gangwondo in the far northeast of South Korea. There is often more variety to makguksu compared to other dishes, with exact composition depend-ing on the restaurant.
Jeju: Cham Sali Jemane(참살이제마네), 1259-1 Ido 1(il)-dong, Jeju City, 064-721-0880
Kongguksu(콩국수), or bean noodles, stand out from the others. You won’t see any beans, instead you will be served up a bowl of deliciously creamy icy soup, freshly made from ground soybean. The thick milky texture contrasts well with the thin and slippery noodles that are joined by slices of cucumber and a few blocks of ice. Simple, filling and nutritious.
Seogwipo: Haengbok Han Chashil(행복한차실), 441-30 Seohong-dongmSeogwipo City, 064-738-1267
As if you hadn't been treated enough already, here is Girls Generation singing about ice noodles. Enjoy!
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