Kimchi v Pyeonyuk v Wanja v Mul Naeng Myeon
The town of Okcheon, about 50 km east of central Seoul, is home to a handful of restaurants offering the same suite of 5 dishes, 4 of which are unique to these restaurants.
- Mul Naeng Myeon. Purportedly originating from the northern province of Hwanghae-do, the noodles are made from a buckwheat and potato starch, somewhere between Pyongyang and Hamheung styles. The broth is derived from beef/pork stock, slightly sweeter. The toppings tend to be minimal, usually half of a boiled egg and julienned cucumbers.
- Bibim Naeng Myeon. Same noodles as above. Slathered in a spicy sweet gochujang-based sauce, rather than broth.
- Pyeonyuk. Boiled pork belly. This dish can be found elsewhere (aka jeyuk, suyuk).
- Wanja. Pancake of ground pork, plus eggs and aromatics, each about the size and thickness of a burger patty.
- Kimchi. Pickled radish, dressed with sugar, vinegar, red chili powder and/or paste. The result is sweet/sour/spicy and chewy/crunchy, a taste/texture combination that pairs perfectly with the wanja and pyeonyuk, as well as the MNM.
For years, long preceding the birth of GMTD, my favorite restaurant has been Okcheon Goeup Naeng Myeon – the “OG.”
The Okcheon Challenge was conducted in late 2021 to confirm that OG was still the best in town. The restaurants were evaluated on 4 dishes (not bibim naeng myeon) (I have never tried bibim naeng myeon at any restaurant in Okcheon), each scored on a 4-point scale (16 points total).
OG did confirm its supremacy, but the runner-up proved to be a worthy alternative (perhaps better in some respects).
Okcheon Goeup Naeng Myeon
Total score: 3.5 (kimchi) + 4.0 (pyeonyuk) + 4.0 (wanja) + 3.5 (MNM) = 15 out of 16 (94%).
Okcheon Jeontong Naeng Myeon
Total score: 4.0 (kimchi) + 3.5 (pyeonyuk) + 4.0 (wanja) + 2.5 (MNM) = 14 out of 16 (88%).
Total score: 3.5 (kimchi) + 2.5 (pyeonyuk) + 2.5 (wanja) + 2.0 (MNM) = 10.5 out of 16 (66%).
Okcheon Naeng Myeon Hwanghae Sikdang
Total score: 3.0 (kimchi) + 1.0 (pyeonyuk) + 2.5 (wanja) + 1.5 (MNM) = 8.0 out of 16 (50%).
(See also MUL NAENG MYEON)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)