A startling addition to a dish of naengmyeonThe incident left me in a state of dismay for an entire week. I was in sheer terror when I found my face flushing to the color of a cooked lobster shell last week after eating instant naengmyeon, a cold noodle soup sold in packs.
Mind you, the food was my health-conscious replacement for instant ramyeon, which I’ve been obsessing over ever since I started living alone.
The naengmyeon, which is produced by a major food manufacturer, looked fine. It smelled fine, neatly coming in separate packs containing daikon broth, wet noodles and a small bag of mustard.
After about an hour, though, I felt my cheeks slowly turning red. Then my heart started pounding. They were the exact same symptoms I get after consuming about two glasses of beer, or a small shot of soju.
Whatever the reason, it came to the point that I thought there was something in what I ate that shouldn’t have been there, like alcohol.
First I called my mother, since she had recommended the product. She laughed, saying it was nonsense that the company would have put alcohol in the noodles. Of course, who would believe that someone would get drunk after eating a bowl of noodles?
I decided to find the truth, and called the company. It was past 8 p.m., and the customer service people, of course, had already gone home three hours earlier.
By this point, I was rather disturbed. The state of not knowing exactly what I had eaten and what would happen to my body next kept me tossing and turning the whole night.
The next day, I called customer service as I soon as I woke up. After listening to my symptoms, the female clerk there adamantly said, “I guess you have an allergy to alcohol. It happens sometimes.”
She told me the company had deliberately marinated the noodles in alcohol as an alternative to using chemical preservatives. The way she said it, though, suggested an appalling irony. Preservatives are bad. But alcohol isn’t?
Besides, I was puzzled by her use of the word “allergy.”
Flushing and feeling dizzy after consuming alcohol isn’t exactly an allergy. It’s a natural result for most people. When I insisted that the company should indicate the alcohol in the noodles, she refused, explaining that alcohol isn’t one of the allergy-sensitive ingredients food manufacturers are required by law to list on their packaging.
Of course, if I had been a militant type, I could have gone to the Supreme Court with this case. But after the exhausting fuss with the clerk I just hung up, asking for a refund. The next day, the company sent a staff member to pick up the packaging of the noodles I ate.
After the incident, I joked with my colleagues, saying the next time we crave soju, we know where to get it. But if I had wanted soju, I would have gone to a liquor store instead of eating noodles soaked in alcohol.
How to Cook
Cold noodle soup
Ingredients (4 servings): 600 grams naengmyeon, 200g beef brisket, 1/2 cucumber, 200g of radish kimchi, 1/2 pear, 2 boiled eggs, 10 cups of beef broth, 1 teaspoon of chestnuts. For sauce: red pepper, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, pepper, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce.
1. Wash the brisket thoroughly. Cook the meat in a pot of water for an hour. Let broth cool, and add the sauce.
2. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil. Add the naengmyeong strings. When the noodles soften, drain and rinse in cold water.
3. Place the noodles in the center of a bowl.
4. Place the radish kimchi, sliced pears, sliced cucumbers and egg half over the noodles. Pour on cooled broth.
5. Sprinkle chestnuts over the dish.
6. Serve with vinegar and mustard.
by Park Soo-mee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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