15 (Sun) January 2012
Mul Naeng Myeon
at Myeong-Dong Hamheung Myeonok
-Myeon, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Myeong-Dong Hamheung Myeonok (명동함흥면옥) is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in Hamheung-style naeng myeon.
After watching The Kimchi Chronicles a few weeks ago, I had visited the restaurant Hanilkwan to sample their rendition of bulgogi (see 2.361 Bulgogi), as featured in the beef episode (Episode 6).
The noodle and dumpling episode (Episode 10) led me to this place for a bowl of their mul naeng myeon (MNM).
Upon arrival, I realized that I’d been there before, probably on multiple occasions, back when my mother ran a coffee shop around the corner over 20 years ago.
As described in my first post on MNM (see 1.286 Mul Naeng Myeon), the dish comes in 2 different styles: Hamheung and Pyeongyang. All the MNM covered on this blog thus far have been Pyeongyang-style, which I’m overwhelmingly partial to.
Hamheung-style (HHS) is distinctive in 2 respects. First, the noodles are made from potato starch, thus extremely chewy, to the point of being rubbery, necessitating a few preliminary snips of scissors before they can be eaten, even though they’re thin as angel hair pasta. Second, the broth is supposedly made from beef stock, but the flavor is dominated by sweet-and-sour tanginess. This is the style of MNM that has come to dominate both the domestic and international markets in recent years; unless otherwise noted, MNM is now HHS by default; only a handful of restaurants in the world, all located in and around Seoul, offer the other. HHS is named after the city, currently in North Korea, from which it purportedly originated.
The MNM here, as the name of the restaurant would suggest, is in the Hamheung tradition. True to form, the noodles were intolerably chewy, more like strands of rubber than noodles; even after cutting them into shorter bits, they were difficult to eat. And the broth was strong in beef flavor, oddly and strongly artificial and, so strong that liberal amounts of vinegar and mustard couldn’t cut through it. Moreover, the broth was overly sweet (a point that Marja, host of The Kimchi Chronicles, picks up on at first bite). I wasn’t impressed. Certainly not worth 8,000 won.
For several years now, I’ve been observing a trend toward making the broth increasingly sweeter at naeng myeon restaurants in Seoul, especially those catering to younger crowds, and maybe tourists, which I’ve come to regard as the “Seoul style.” I’ll discuss this further in a future post.
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