15 (Wed) June 2011
Chinese-Style Naeng Myeon
-Sinsa, Gangnam, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Chinese-style Naeng Myeon is a chilled noodle soup. Similar in concept to Korean mul naeng myeon (MNM), the Chinese version is significantly distinct in a few respects. First, while the broth is tangy, somewhat like Hamheung MNM, it’s usually heavier in soy. Second, the noodles are flour-based with potato starch, giving them a cleaner taste and chewier texture than the somewhat mealy-tasting/feeling noodles made from buckwheat. Third, the toppings include sliced jellyfish, shrimp, and beef, all seasoned with five-spice, together reminiscent of the chilled appetizer called naeng chae (냉채) commonly served as part of course meals in Chinese restaurants here in Korea. Finally, the primary condiment is peanut sauce, which tends to overpower everything else. In the end, the dish feels Chinese, although doubtful that it even exists outside of Korea. Even here, it isn’t available at every Chinese restaurant at any time of the year, just at some places during the summer months.
Gongeulgi (공을기) is a Chinese restaurant.
On its face, the restaurant appears to exemplify my number one gripe about the Gangnam food scene: show over substance. In addition to the distinctive façade, this was one of the first Chinese places to incorporate Chinese antiques (or replicas thereof) into the decor, including the use of four-post beds as semi-private dining booths. All the servers are dressed in Chinese garb and yell out to each other in Chinese phrases, though I was told by someone who once tried to engage one of them in dialogue that they can’t actually speak the language. On the menus, which read from right to left, the names of the dishes are all Chinese, written out phonetically in Korean, and the prices are written exclusively in Chinese characters. Even the plates are adorned in Chinese characters. Given all that show, I would expect very little substance, as the two tend to be inversely proportional when it comes to restaurants in the area.
Much to my surprise, the naeng myeon at Gongeulgi is excellent. The noodles, though not that much flavor, were nicely chewy. The toppings were well made from high quality ingredients, like a very fresh and succulent jumbo shrimp. I didn’t add any peanut sauce, which I find to be vile, so the overall feel was much lighter and more refreshing. Good stuff.
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