I updated this recipe versus the original using some rice vinegar and brown sugar in place of the apple cider and part of the nashi pear. This revised version is much closer to my husband's favorite naeng myun from Soo Ra Myun Ok in Daejeon and Chil Bo Myun Ok in LA. Almost there!
This is the story of one of the greatest love affairs of all time. It involves a boy and a bowl of cold noodles and the lengths to which he will go to be united with his beloved. Our protagonist tells me it began in high school -- at least, that's his earliest memory of it, and it's not the type of meal a kid would enjoy anyway. There was a restaurant in Daejeon where he and his family would go after church. The best in the city, his mom had said. And when he tasted that sweet-tangy-spicy sauce coating those ice cold, chewy noodles, it filled both his stomach and his heart.
For a while, it seemed that these lovers were destined to be star-crossed. He moved to Northern California, and though he knocked on the door of every Korean restaurant, he was met with head-shaking and shrugs. A few of them offered something with the right name, but the first bite unmasked the lie. Then, nearly 20 years later, his wife happened upon a restaurant in LA's Koreatown where the bowls were ice cold, the noodles were perfectly chewy, and they even served the traditional steaming cup of yook soo (beef broth) alongside. On his next trip down south, he stopped in to try it. It had been so many years that his tastebuds could have been mistaken, but the flavor was so fully ingrained in his memory, that if this wasn't the real thing, it sure was close.
So our young man has once again been reunited with his lost love, and now trips to LA have become pilgrimages not only to convene with good friends but also to savor those noodles that have long eluded him.
- 1 tsp. hot mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp. water
- 1/3 Japanese cucumber
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. vinegar
- 4 tbsp. gotchukaru + a pinch
- 1/2 nashi (Asian pear)
- 1/4 med. onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2" piece ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 c. corn syrup
- 4 tbsp. gotchujang
- 1/4 c. rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
- 3 green onions, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- Dried naeng myun noodles
- Eggs, hard-boiled
- Naeng myun is best eaten from very cold bowls. About 20 minutes prior to eating, place individual bowls (I use metal ones) in the refrigerator.
- In a small bowl, mix the mustard powder with the water to make a paste, and set aside.
- Thinly slice the cucumber on the diagonal, then toss with 1 tsp. sugar, a pinch of salt, vinegar and a pinch of gotchukaru, and set aside. Peel the pear half. Thinly slice one quarter, then cover with water mixed with 1 tsp. sugar.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the other pear quarter (roughly chopped), onion, garlic, ginger, corn syrup, 1 tbsp. gotchukaru, gotchujang, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, green onions, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Process until nearly smooth. Add sesame oil and hot mustard paste, stir well, then refrigerate.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. When at a full, roiling boil, add the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes (test one before taking off the heat -- it should be very al dente). Carry pot to the sink, pour off most of the water, then fill the pot with cold water. Swirl the noodles around in the water. Pour off most of the water again, and add cold water back to the pot. Repeat as many times as needed so that the noodles become very cold.
- Pour noodles into a colander or basket, and rinse with water to remove all excess starch.
- At this point, divide the noodles between the cold bowls and either place them back in the refrigerator for another 15-20 minutes or serve immediately. To serve, pour sauce over the noodles (enough to evenly coat all of the noodles), top with cucumbers, pear slices, and half of an egg. Naeng myun is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to kalbi or bulgogi and served with a cup of hot yook soo.
Adapted from Maangchi