For most people who haven’t really tried Korean food, you wouldn’t ever think of eating your noodles cold.
I mean, why would you, right? … Wrong!
Cold Noodles in Korean is called “Naeng-myun” [냉면].
“Naeng” = Cold ; “Myun” = Noodles
If you haven’t already caught it, you’ll notice “myun” in other dishes too like “Ra-myun/Ramen”
Naengmyun is a particular dish that originated in Korea far back into the Joseon Dynasty. Interestingly, the two biggest cities in all of Korea known to have been the home of good Naengmyun were in Pyongyang and Hamhung – two cities that are today part of North Korea. When the Korean peninsula separated into two countries after the Korean War in the mid 1900s, Naengmyun became widely popular in South Korea where natives would soon learn that Naengmyun was best consumed in the winter.
There is an old Chinese proverb that said something along the lines, “Eat cold in the cold”.
So Koreans have always believed that the best time to eat Cold Noodles was on the coldest days. Although, to be quite honest, I do like my cold noodles on a really hot summer day. It’s especially refreshing! It cools your body down on a hot steamy day.
Okay, so what exactly is Naengmyun?
Naengmyun is a type of thin handmade noodles that is typically served in a stainless-steel bowl to contain the cold temperature. It is also served with a hard-boiled egg, some cucumbers, radish, and asian pears as well. There are 2 types of cold noodles: Mul Naengmyun [물냉면] and Bibim Naengmyun [비빔냉면]. The former consists of cold noodles in a cold beef or radish broth. The latter consists of cold noodles with a spicy dressing made primarily of red chili pepper paste [고추장].
Today, there are many variations of the cold noodle dish. A popular addition to the main two different types is Hwe Naengmyun. It’s essentially the same as Bibim, but with spicy pollock in it.
There are also variations in the type of noodles.
Mul Naengmyun (in cold broth) originated from Pyongyang where the noodles were made of buckwheat. North Koreans typically enjoy their Naengmyun in the radish cold broth, whereas South Koreans prefer theirs in a cold beef broth.
Bibim Naengmyun (in spicy sauce) originated from Hamhung where the noodles were made of potatoes or sweet potato starch – making them chewier than buckwheat noodles.
Where to get them
If you’re looking to try them at a restaurant, most will serve this dish but don’t be surprised if they don’t offer it in the winter. Some restaurants will only serve this cold dish in the summer where the demand is much higher.
Most Korean restaurants that specializes in Korean BBQ will highly likely offer cold noodles. Koreans enjoy their BBQ meat with cold noodles – and vice versa. Due to this popular trend, many restaurants offer a full size Naengmyun to eat as its own meal, or a smaller portion offered at a lower price to go along with your BBQ. Koreans enjoy their BBQ accompanied with cold noodles because it creates a fresh and cool taste in the mouth after having had meat foods.
If you’re adventurous and willing to try making them at home, you can definitely buy the ingredients at a Korean grocery store near you. Here’s one that I might suggest for those living in Montreal: Jangteu Épicerie Coréene et Japonaise.
This particular Asian grocery store is owned and managed by my aunt’s family. They have three locations on the island:
Jangteu 1: 2113 Boulevard Décarie, Montreal, H4A 3J2
Jangteu 2: 2109 rue Sainte-Catherine W., Montreal, H3H 1M6
Jangteu 3 (most recently opened!): 6785 rue Saint-Jacques, Montreal, H4B 1V3
Check out their website for more details: www.jangteu.com
All that you really need to buy from the Asian grocery store is the noodle package that includes the sauce packets or the broth packets. You also have a choice of getting the frozen Naengmyun broth from the freezer section. If you’re having trouble finding stuff, the staff is very helpful there and they would love to help you find the ingredients you need to make any Korean dish!
If you happen to drop by their newest store on rue Saint-Jacques, you’ll definitely see my cousin Frank. He manages the store and is easily one of the friendliest person I know! If you have any question, he can definitely help you out.
Annnnd I’m off to make some cold noodles. Ciao! 🙂
Tiny Chef, xo