Battle the heat with a cool palateThe best weapon against the sweltering summer heat is a dish of naengmyeon, or cold noodles. The most commonly preferred naengmyeon, the pyeongyang naengmyeon, is made of buckwheat with a sprinkle of starch, and placed in a large bowl of cold beef, with chicken or pheasant broth. Boiled egg, sliced pear, sliced cucumber and either fried or boiled beef are placed on top of the noodles.
Hamheung naengmyeon is a naengmyeon that has no soup base but is mixed with gochujang, thick soy paste of red pepper. The noodle is made of potato starch and is topped with raw fish.
Naengmyeon has been a Korean traditional dish in the northern Seoul region since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It was interestingly a winter cuisine, and families would consume the it in heated rooms. The cuisine soon spread widely into the southern regions after the Korean War.
Sambong Naengmyeon, a restaurant that specializes in naengmyeon dishes, is located in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul, behind the Lotte Department store. The restaurant has been providing naengmyeon to residents of the area for the past 10 years.
The price of both Pyeongyang Naengmyeon and Hamheung Naengmyeon is 6,000 won ($5). The restaurant also has mandoo, or dumplings stuffed with beef, that cost 4,000 won.
There is a kettle filled with hot murky beef broth on each table.
The food is tasty; the noodles are at once very rubbery and chewy.
The broth, which usually determines the quality of the naengmyeon, is cold and sweet, as well as sour.
Customers may add mustard or vinegar to make it more spicy.
The dumplings are relatively large, as big as a male fist. The beef stuffing is steamed and a bit spicy.
Other than the authentic taste of the food, one of the interesting observations of Sambong Naengmyeon is that none of its waitresses is friendly. The menu at this restaurant is so simple that the waitresses need little time to take down orders, and are rather curt during lunch and dinner rush hours.
Though phone reservations are available, do not expect politeness from the other end.
Theme: Korean Naengmyeon
Telephone: (02) 563-5775
Hours : 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: 4,000 - 6,000 won
Location: Behind Lotte Department Store in Daechi- dong, southern Seoul.
by Lee Ho-jeong