Thursday, July 15, 2010

The best food yet!

Sitting in Korea in the middle of summer without airconditioning is not fun. It's an experience that drains your energy, and makes you lazy. It leaves you sitting and wondering what to do next, and how to go about it. For one, you don't feel like cooking anything, and at the same time the thought of eating something hot or even warm just does not seem appealing.

And this is where I have an intense urge to pat some old-school Koreans on the back, and say:"Well done, my friend, I thank you with all my heart."

What would I be thanking them for? Only the greatest summer food dish you can think of. They really did come up with the most appetizing dish in the world when it's 35 degrees outside and sweltering hot.

The dish? Neangmyeon. Bibim, or preferably Mul.

Let me start off by explaining a little. Neangmyeon are noodles that are served ice cold. Not room temperature or just fridge cold. If possible they are served ice cold. The noodles are made from several ingredients, the main one being buckwheat. They are incredibly thin, a light brown colour, and somewhat chewy and bouncy (for lack of a better word).

The noodles are boiled in hot water for a very brief period (about 3 minutes, if I'm not mistaken) and are then cooled down by running them under some cold water. They are then thrown into a (usually) big metal bowl, along with a substantial amount of ice cold broth. The broth is apparently made from a mixture of chicken broth, beef broth and kimchi brine(kimchi is another Korean speciality, but more on that in another post).

Added to the noodles and broth are a few thinly sliced (or julienned) summer veggies. Most often the vegetables will be cucumber and radish. One thing that cannot be forgotten is the half boiled egg.

If the restaurant where you are eating your Naengmyon is on top of their game, the broth will literally be icey, as in it will contain some frozen bits....oh yes!

This is how the dish is served, and then often you will be given a little coindiment tray, on which you should find some vinegar, mustard, and chilli (red pepper) sauce. These are then added to your dish according to your taste. The vinegar obviously gives a little sour-ish kick, the mustard adds tang (together with the vinegar) and the chilli sauce adds spiciness.

One of my Korean co-teachers showed me how to eat Naengmyon properly. The way to do it is to hold your chopsticks in your right hand, and have the left hand free to pick up your bowl. After putting some noodles and veggies in your mouth with the chopsticks, you pick up the bowl and drink some of the ice cold goodness.

Above, I mentioned Bibim and Mul. Bibim Naengmyon are served with a sauce made mostly from red peppers and garlic, and have a great flavour, and Mul (literally translated = water) are served in a much greater amount of broth and have a much tangier taste. Definitely the more refreshing of the two.

I can only imagine that to many of my western friends this sounds like a really strange dish. I thought the same when I was first offered noodles in ice cold water, but man oh man...Naengmyon really is something else. I LOVE Korean food. All of it. But Naengmyon is the one dish that has had the greatest impact on my life so far. They really are that magical.

If there is one dish that I will miss when I got back home, (which, luckily is not for a loooong while) it's the cold, icey, tasty goodness called Naengmyon!

Post by Oliver


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