Naengmyeon, a cold summer treat!
One of my favorite Korean foods is Naengmyeon (냉면). Naengmyeon is a kind of buckwheat noodle beef soup. It is usually eaten in the summer because it is a great way to beat the heat, as it is served chilled.
Wait, it’s COLD? COLD SOUP?
Yes. It’s not lukewarm, but chilled. Sometimes it is even served with ice in it to keep it cold as you eat it. Cold soup is certainly not only a Korean thing. The Spanish have a cold soup called Gazpacho.
Why would anyone want to eat cold soup?
Well, why would anyone want to eat hot dogs? Do you know the materials they are made of and how unhealthy they can be?
Um, because they taste good?
Yea, well Naengmyeon is enjoyed specifically in summer. Korean summers can be hot! I guarantee you that Naengmyeon sales plummet in winter. Meanwhile Americans put ice in their colas when they go to McDonald’s even in the dead of winter, but that doesn’t seem strange to you, does it?
Hmm, I never thought of it that way.
Yes, well the soup is served cold, with mixed vegetables. In addition, you can add some gyeocha (겨자, Korean mustard) and vinegar to it according to your taste. There are two main kinds of naengmyeon, mul naengmyeon (물냉면), and bibim naengmyeon(비빔냉면). Bibim naengmyeon is eaten with gochu jang (고추장, Korean red pepper paste) and is spicier and has more ingredients.
Where can I eat Naengmyeon?
Most Korean restaurants in the U.S. have this as a standard menu item, so I assume that this must be the case in other countries in the world. In Korea there are many naengmyeon restaurants. I’ll tell you about one specifically that I like.
The name of my favorite naengmyeon restaurant is Hamheung Naengmyeon. Naengmyeon was invented in the northern part of Korea, and Hamheung is a large city in the Hamgyeong province, near Russia. The naengmyeon they serve in this restaurant is supposedly based on the version that comes from that region, but since I have never been there, (and probably neither has any of the staff) there’s no way to tell if it’s truly authentic. Even so, it’s good.
To get to Hamheung Naengmyeon, go to Sinchon station. (Be careful about romanization! Sinchon, not Sincheon!). Get out at exit 2 and walk north. At the second intersection, you will see it. If these directions are difficult, I’ve provided a map.
Hamheung Naengmyeon is not a fancy place, but you don’t have to always go out and eat fancy do you? It’s got more than just naengmyeon. Another popular dish, galbi tang (beef rib soup… yes, warm) is also popular there. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is that of any other basic eatery. You have the choice to sit in a chair, or sit on the floor using a Korean style short table. It’s also not too expensive, and the food is generally very good!
Edit added later: arleumlady kindly gave me a video about the naengmyeon song, so I’m going to add it to the end of this article.