4.362 How I Earned a Free Bowl of Mul Naeng Myeon


2 (Thu) January 2014

How I Earned a Free Bowl of Mul Naeng Myeon


at Samdo Gambi

-Songpa, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with KHJ + PHY

Samdo Galbi is a Korean restaurant chain. For a BBQ joint in Korea, the menu is quite eclectic, offering both pork and beef for the grill, marinated and straight up, as well as several rice/noodle/dumpling dishes, including Pyeongyang-style mul naeng myeon, as proudly proclaimed on the signage.  Can’t recall any of the prices in detail, but remember thinking that they were generally mid-range, reasonable.

Food guru KHJ found the place on the internet and told me about it, knowing my affinity for PYS MNM.  It was an ideal venue, in the on-going spirit of seeking out new restaurants together, for our final shared meal before I leave for Manila.

The food was respectable.  The pork galbi, exceptionally well-balanced in sweet and salty, was so moist/tender that it almost felt raw – I’m still deciding if that’s a desirable quality, with pork.  The sides, none noteworthy per se, but well-varied in composition, an atypical spread for BBQ, nary a red kimchi on the table.  The MNM, with the brass bowl and the toppings, particularly the egg ribbon, was an obvious copycat of the highly esteemed MNM from Bong Piyang.  Texturally too, the noodles had a similar squarish mouthfeel, though nowhere near the same level of buckwheat mealiness, the taste also falling short, as if they used the same type of noodle press, but a different dough recipe.  The broth was respectably dry, rather short on beef flavor, yet refreshing in its own right.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to dine at Samdo Galbi again, far away as it is for me, but I’d drop by if I happened to be in the neighborhood.

The latest in Korean BBQ tech, the grill consisted of thin wires stretched across a rectangular frame; while the reduction in cooking surface area did prevent buildup of burnt marinade, requiring frequent grill changes, it also eliminated caramelization on the meat, which of course is part of the process that eventually leads to burning; that may explain the strangely squishy texture described above.

I’ve been reading How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Despite the corny title, and its publication date of 1936, the book remains relevant and useful.  The principles in the book are immediately applicable to daily encounters.

For example, it got me a third bowl of MNM this evening.   As per my MO, I ordered an initial half-size bowl of MNM at the outset of the meal.  The first impression wasn’t very favorable, the noodles being slightly overcooked and thus mushy, as poorly executed PYS noodles can be.  The server asked how I was enjoying them.  DON’T CRITICIZE, CONDEMN, OR COMPLAIN.  “They’re just fine, thank you.”  Later, after we were done with the meat, I ordered a second bowl.  This time, the noodles had been cooked right, resulting in a properly firm texture.  The server, whom I suspect was a uniformed manager, asked me again for my opinion.  GIVE HONEST AND SINCERE APPRECIATION.  “Unlike before, the noodles were cooked right this time, resulting in a properly firm texture.  Excellent, thank you.”  Without hesitation, the server/manager proudly offered me a third bowl, on the house.  Having manipulated the outcome, I couldn’t refuse.  It was even better than the first and second, honestly, even though I was stuffed by that point.

According to the poster here, the Korean tradition of starting with BBQ then finishing with MNM has a name: “seon (선) = initially” + “yuk (육) = meat” + “hu (후) = subsequently” + “myeon (면) = noodles.”  As far as I could determine, they made it up, for obvious self-serving reasons.  For me, “seon myeon hu yuk,” which has a much nicer ring to it.

Incidentally, KHJ and PHY both insisted that I was offered the free bowl of MNM, not because of my newfound communication skills, but rather because of my DSLR camera, which they believed had scared management into thinking that I might be a power blogger, a phenomenon that they claim occurs with me all the time.  Come to think of it, I do seem to get a lot of freebies at restaurants these days, even though the blog itself gets me jack.




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