4.071 Mul Naeng Myeon

Cycle 4 – Item 71

17 (Sun) March 2013

Mul Naeng Myeon


at Eulmildae

-Yeolmi, Mapo, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W and DJ, AHY + KIT + JH, CJH + KKH, CSW + gf

Eulmildae (을밀대) is a Korean restaurant.  Specializes in Pyongyang-style mul naeng myeon, as well as a few other northern-style dishes.

Main building
Annex 1 (left of the main building)
Annex 2 (behind the main building)
Annex 3 (across from the main building)

Befitting a landmark, the place is always packed.  During the summer, on weekdays, by 1100, lines begin to form around the block that typically require a 1-hour wait.

Decades ago, the size of the original premises had proven so insufficient that the owners acquired the adjacent building (Annex 1) and busted through the walls to make a larger dining area, and later again with the building behind (Annex 2); they eventually acquired another (unconnected) building across the alley (Annex 3).  The restaurant also has a branch near Gangnam Station.

The noodle press.
Warm beef broth, an appetizer of sorts that’s served at some MNM restaurants.
For some reason, the limited menu makes room for hongeo, a southern dish if there ever was one.

Early on this Sunday night, the main building and Annex 2 were already full, so we were diverted to Annex 2, which was preferable for us because it has private rooms.

Only 2 side dishes: sliced radish pickles (also found in the naeng myeon) and kimchi.
Nokdu Jeon (3.5): pan-fried to a gorgeous crisp, chock full of tender pork on the inside.
Eulmildae is the only restaurant that I know serving Jinro Gold.

The MNM here is perfection and beyond.  As per PYS, the broth is utterly dry, not a trace of sweetness.   It has a prominent beef flavor with a certain je ne sais quois, a little something extra hidden inside the murkiness (probably loads of MSG); whatever it is, fans of the restaurant – arguably, Eulmildae boasts the most zealous devotees in the city – swear by it.  To optimize the experience, customers in the know will request “geo naeng (거냉),” a term that evolved among the establishment’s regulars as a short cut way of asking to “remove/withhold (geo)” the “cold/ice (naeng)” (i.e., the semi-frozen broth slush that the dish is served with by default), in which case the broth comes cool but not icy, thus allowing the taste to come through.  The PYS noodles, heavy with buckwheat, are supremely rich/nutty and exhibit the characteristic rough/grainy texture of buckwheat noodles yet remain delectably firm.  At 10,000 won per bowl, it’s one of the more expensive offerings on the market but worth every last won.  Another veteran move is to request “yang mani (양마니),” another example of Eulmildae argot, which simply means “large amount/helping” and results in a 1.5 portion (see main photo above).  Also, an order of sari (사리) (extra noodles) at 4,000 won provides a full portion of noodles and additional broth, so it’s essentially a whole new bowl of MNM (but no toppings).  Excellence and value.

This is probably my favorite MNM in the world.  On this occasion, I put down nearly 4 servings: my initial yang mani (1.5), plus an order of yang mani sari (1.5), then half of DJ’s remaining yang mani (.75).  At home four hours later, as the uncomfortable overstuffed sensation in my gut was just beginning to subside, the cravings kicked in again.  I swear, if someone had put another yang mani in front of me, I would’ve eaten it.

Funny though, upon my first visit to Eulmildae many many years ago, back in college when I was still accustomed to the typical tangy broth and rubbery noodles of Hamheung- or Seoul-style naeng myeon, I couldn’t finish a single bowl, finding the broth bland and the noodles pasty to the point of being revolting.  I would’ve rated it 1.0.

(See also BOOZE)

(See also MNM)



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