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mul naeng myun

It is hot.

Hot hot hot hot hot.

H o o o o o t.

Like 90 degrees at 9 AM hot. Like 100+ degrees the entire day hot. Like $300 electricity bill this month for running A. C. All. Day. Hot.

Which wouldn’t be all that bad − make no mistake, 100 degrees is still bad − but it wouldn’t be all that bad if it were the height of summer. In Death Valley.

But it’s September. On the coast. Isn’t it supposed to be all love songs and always 70 degrees on the kost?

Where was all this hotness in June, known for “gloom,” mostly for the gray misty skies, partly for my birthday?! Where was all this hotness in July when hotness is like, normal? Where was all this hotness in August, when, oh right, it was pretty hot in August.

It’s going to be in the upper 90s all week, over 100 degrees in some parts of LA (sorry, Valley!)

I’m taking the heat as Mother Nature’s very dramatic last call to check off a few more before official Fall.

So here is #32 of the 94 Things to Eat, Drink, and Wear This Summer, naeng-myun, specifically mul naeng-myun, a chilled/cold Korean dish of buckwheat noodles, sliced fresh Korean pear, cucumber, pickled daikon radish, sometimes kimchi, and sometimes thinly-sliced beef brisket, in a vinegary, though subtly sweet broth that has been cooled down with ice cubes.
mul naeng myun

(Mul) Naeng-Myun / Korean Chilled Buckwheat Noodles in Broth {recipe}

At the Korean market, you will find naeng-myun in the Asian noodle aisle or with Asian noodles in the refrigerated section. Many of the brands sell the noodles in packages along with powdered soup base and serving seasonings (kind of like packaged ramen). I throw these packets out and make the broth from scratch. There will be times when you are tempted to rely on the packaged seasonings. It won’t taste as good, but go ahead. It’s not like I’ll find out and hate.

Naeng-myun noodles consist primarily of buckwheat, but can also include arrowroot, corn, and sweet potato starches, as well as regular wheat flour. The different combinations will all differ ever-so-slightly in color, taste, and texture from one another, but for the most part, it doesn’t matter. The only noodles from which you want to differentiate for sure are dang-myun, which is used for jap-chae and other soups and stews (thicker, more transparent like “cellophane,” and more slippery), and buckwheat soba (“squared off” and not bouncy/chewy).

My version of the naeng-myun soup, the “mul” (which means “water”) part of Mul Naeng-myun, is clear, light, and tangy, making it refreshing to me. Other recipes, particularly well-known restaurants, use very rick stocks as the soup base, often resulting in a somewhat frozen-but-gelatinous texture, since the soup is supposed to be cold. This is too weird for me.

Recipe Timing Recommendation: Start cooking the beef first to make the soup base. You can wash/peel/slice/prep all the vegetables and make hard boiled eggs while the soup is cooking, and then chilling (could be a few hours!). Naeng-myun noodles take about 5 minutes to cook; cook them just before serving.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1 lb beef brisket
1 quart chicken stock + 1 quart filtered water (you can also used prepared beef stock in place of water if you have it for a much richer soup taste)
4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered length-wise through the root
3-inch section of daikon radish cut into ½-inch rounds
1 teaspoon salt
5-7 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup rice vinegar
1-3 teaspoons sugar, or to taste (optional)
1½-lb package Korean naeng-myun noodles
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small Asian pear, quartered and thinly sliced
1-2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
vinegar-pickled daikon radish slices (thinly slice daikon radish, pickle using Momofuku brine, recipe here)
cabbage kimchi, red pepper rinsed off under cold water
hard boiled eggs, half egg for each serving (how to make PERFECT Hard Boiled Eggs, recipe here)
to serve: toasted sesame seeds garnish, hot mustard

DIRECTIONS

Make Soup/Cook Beef: Rinse beef brisket, then place in a large pot, and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil and allow it to boil out for about five minutes. Turn off the heat, carefully pour out the water with all the foam and fat, rinse off the beef and the pot (wipe out any foam/scum that sticks to the side), and add chicken stock, filtered water, garlic, ginger, onion, daikon radish, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, covered, with just a little bit of space to let some steam out. The soup will reduce to about ¾ the original.

Once the beef is cooked, remove it to a plate and put in the refrigerator to chill and “set.” When the beef brisket is cool enough to handle and more “solid,” slice it against the grain as thinly as possible.

Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve into a heat proof container. Chill the soup for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, you can also let it chill overnight.

Once the soup is chilled, stir in additional salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, and sugar.

Cook Noodles: Cook the naeng-myun noodles according to the package: bring water in a large pot to a boil (you can probably use the pot you used to cooke the beef/make the soup). Turn down the heat to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes. Drain into colander and rinse with cold running water several times while gently “massaging” the noodles. Drizzle the rinsed and drained noodles with sesame oil and gently massage the noodles to distribute the oil. Divide the cooked naeng-myun noodles among serving bowls right away because the noodles are somewhat “sticky” and start to clump together fairly soon (if they are left without liquid/broth).

Prep Naeng-Myun Bowls/Serve: Top the noodles in each bowl with a few slices each of Asian pear, cucumber, rinsed cabbage kimchi, beef brisket, and half a hard boiled egg. Carefully ladle soup into bowl around noodles. Add ice cubes to the soup in the bowls. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with additional vinegar (using the pickling brine from the radish works well), hot mustard, and kimchi.

Naeng-myun, prepped in bowl for serving:
mul naeng myun
Naeng-myun in bowls:
mul naeng myun
Components for naeng-myun, clockwise from top: fresh kimchi (un-rinsed), hard boiled eggs, Asian pear and cucumber, pickled daikon with jalapenos, sliced cooked beef brisket:
mul naeng myun, ingredients and garnishes
Naeng-myun noodles, package and noodles:
naeng myun noodle package
Beef brisket for soup base and eating:
beef brisket, raw

Recipe Resources

~ beef brisket: I usually try to get my meat from Marconda’s Meat in Los Angeles, but this time, Whole Foods Market
~ chicken stock: homemade, though I keep Imagine brand Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth in my pantry
~ naeng-myun noodles: Wang brand, Galleria Market in Koreatown, Los Angeles (see photo above)
~ kimchi: Ha Sun Jung brand at Galleria Market
~ any and all groceries from Bristol Farms or Whole Foods Market

Where to Try Naeng Myun in a Restaurant

If you’ve never eaten naeng-myun, try it in a restaurant first because the taste, temperature, and texture together is something to get used to. In LA, there are a few restaurants that specialize in naeng-myun, though many Korean restaurants that specialize in BBQ or serve a variety of traditional foods will probably have naeng-myun, too.
~ Yu Chun Chic Naeng-Myun (Koreatown, Los Angeles) seems to get the most, and highest, raves {LA Weekly rec}
~ Ham Heung Naeng-Myun (Koreantown, Los Angeles) {yelp}
~ Chilbomyunok is a BBQ restaurant, but is also known for their naeng-myun. {midtown lunch review}
~ I’ve tried the spicy, soup-less version (bibim naeng-myun) at Dong Il Jang

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