Monday, October 13, 2014

Cold Soup For You: Naeng Myun To Remember Next Summer At Bu Du Mak And Other Spots

Naeng myun -- cold buckwheat noodle soup -- at Bu Du Mak in Hanoori Town
I'm out of season, but I can't wait for the summer heat to talk up one of our discoveries of 2014.

One basic Korean dish is a cold buckwheat noodle soup called naeng myun that makes a terrific entry into Korean cuisine or a new frontier for folks who already love the barbecue and tofu soups.

This is part of a series of guest posts by Howard County bloggers.  For local food blogs, check out the HocoBlogs food page.

Lisbeth of the Lisbeth Eats blog was nice enough to talk up naeng myun -- specifically the soup at one of the restaurants in the Hanoori Town food court area down from H Mart in Catonsville.  That's Bu Du Mak, the restaurant just to the left as you walk into the Hanoori Town area and right next to the new Hangari Noodle.  Prices start at $9 for the basic bowls or $12 for samples of two varieties.

Naeng myun is often a great summer food.  But you could follow Lisbeth's advice and eat off-season.  We ordered naeng myun last month with barbecue at Honey Pig, and I'll post about that meal later:
Every summer there are two dishes that I just have to have, Maryland crabs and naeng myun.  And when I say I have to have it, I’m talking multiple times.  Maryland crabs are world famous!  But what in the world is naeng myun?
Naeng myun is a Korean cold buckwheat noodle dish and is typically served in two styles, as Mool Naeng Myun or Bibim Naeng Myun. 
Mool Naeng Myun literally means ‘water cold noodles.’  This version is served in a cold broth made from beef or Dong Chi Mi (white radish water kimchi) and topped with sliced pickled radish, julienne cucumbers, sliced pear, sliced boiled beef brisket and a hard boiled egg.  The soup is often slushy or served with ice cubes.  You adjust the seasoning of the broth with vinegar, Korean style hot mustard or mustard oil before eating.  
Bibim means ‘mixed,’ like in bibimbop. W ith this version the cold buckwheat noodles are topped with the same ingredients, but instead of being served in a cold broth, it is served with a spicy go chu jang, Korean red-pepper-paste-based sauce that you mix together with the noodles.  Sure does sound strange, doesn’t it?  I agree that it does, but it really is quite delicious. 
I mean, who would’ve thought kimchi, a super stinky fermented Korean pickled cabbage, would be so popular and widely accepted around the world. They even offer four different varieties of kimchi on the pickle bar in Whole Foods.  So don’t be afraid to try out naeng myun  no matter how strange it sounds. 
Mool naeng myun
Of the two styles, my favorite is Mool Naeng Myun.  I love the Mool Naeng Myun at Bu Du Mak inside Hanoori Town in Catonsville.  It is, afterall, their speciality. The customer service could be improved, but the naeng myun there is the best I’ve had in the area.  For those who want to try both, they offer half-bibim/half-mool and they also serve a Naeng Gal special with galbi -- marinated grilled beef ribs -- accompanied with a bowl of naeng myun   Yum!  
While I’m there, I like to check out the Asian kitchen housewares and gift store that occupies the basement level of Hanoori Town.  That’s where I get a lot of my fun Asian cooking tools and pots.   
I’ve also seen naeng myun  on the menus at Yet Nal House, Tong Na Moo, Honey Pig, Lighthouse Tofu and Shin Chon in Ellicott City.  Naeng myun is especially popular in Korean BBQ restaurants.  You know, the whole Naeng Gal thing.  At Shin Chon you can order a smaller sized portion to go with your meats. 
An old Korean man once told me that the egg should be the first thing eaten in naeng myun   His reasoning was stranger than the description of the dish, so let’s just say there are old wives’ tales on how to eat certain Korean dishes.  I  personally like to dissolve the egg yolk into the broth when I’m halfway through my noodles.  Why?  I don’t know.  I’ve just always done that since I was a little girl.  And if the soup is especially tasty, I slurp it all up 
They also sell packs of instant naeng myun in Lotte and H Mart for about $5 in the fresh noodle section.  So after you have a bowl at Bu Du Mak and look around at the Asian housewares downstairs, head over to H Mart and pick up a pack to take home. ;)  Naeng myun is incredibly refreshing and perfect on hot summer days.  Try it today and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Check out the naeng myun on the next time that you go for Korean barbecue.  You should definitely check out the Lisbeth Eats blog.  She goes lots of recipes, and she wrote a terrific primer about eating Korean barbecue last summer.  It's a companion for my own Korean 101 post or a starter before perusing all my posts about Korean food.


EastCoastMatt said...

real old school korean thinking is that naeng myun is supposed to be eaten in the winter. you're not supposed to get "warmed up" by what you're eating....rather, you're supposed to be in equilibrium with the outside... so, in the winter, you eat cold stuff, and in the summer, you eat hot broths....

that's old school thinking though, and not something I do...

lisbeth said...

That is very true! I was taught hot soups in the summer, cold soups in the winter too. But naeng myun on a hot's the best! is there a saying about hot noodle soups on rainy days? ;)