Friday, May 11, 2012

물냉면 (Mulnaengmyeon)

I was going to mention this dish in my past week in food, but it deserves its own post. Seriously, mulnaengmyeon is one of the best dishes in Korea. It sounds kind of strange, and I feel like it is a love it or hate it dish, but once the summer months hit I can't get enough.

I would assume this is a healthy dish. The broth is made from beef or chicken and the noodles are made from buckwheat. It has just some light vegetables: cucumbers and raddishes. Maybe an Asian pear. Sometimes there is a bit of beef as well as an egg and they will give you vinegar and mustard to stir in. Oh, did I mention the broth is icy? Such a deliciously unique dish. The noodles (냉면) are pretty popular in Korea... there is even a pop song about them.

Recently, I've been eating mulnaengmyeon maybe once or twice a week. It is so refreshing and perfect for a hot day. You can get it for the cheap at around 5000 won at any Kimbab Cheonguk (김밥천국) but probably the best place to get naengmyeon is in North Korea where the dish originated. I probably can't try that anytime soon...

The ingredients for mulnaengmyeon shouldn't be too hard to find, except maybe the noodles themselves, so it is worth it to make if your local Korean restaurant doesn't have this dish. Luckily, there are probably twenty restaurants within a twenty minute walk from my apartment where I can gorge mysel on cold buckwheat noodles. For those not in Korea, here is a recipe directly copied from the fantastic Maangchi.

A package of Korean buckwheat noodles usually comes with soup powder packet. If you want to make a quick broth, you can simply mix the soup powder with cold water. If you want to make homemade stock, this is how I do it.
Make stock for mulnaengmyeon:
  1. Boil 8 cups of water with 3-4 shiitake mushrooms, a 4 inch piece of dried kelp, and 8-10 dried anchovies with the heads and the intestines removed for 20 minutes over hight heat.
  2. Lower the heat to low and cook another 20 minutes. Cool it down and keep it in the refrigerator.
Prepare toppings:
  1. Mustard paste (optional):Mix 2 tbs of mustard powder and 1 tbs water. Put it in a warm place to ferment it for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Cucumber:
    Slice 1 cup’s worth of cucumber into thin strips. Add a pinch of salt, 1 ts of sugar, and 1 ts of vinegar. Mix it up and and set it aside.
  3. Pear:Slice 1 cup’s worth into thin strips. You can use either Korean pear or bosc pear. Soak it in water and add 1 ts sugar so it doesn’t change color. Set it aside.
  4. Egg:Hardboil an egg, cut it in half, and set it aside.
Make the noodles
  1. Put a package of buckwheat noodles into a big pot of boiling water. Stir them with a wooden spoon so that the noodles don’t stick to each other. Keep boiling for about 3-5 minutes until cooked.
  2. When the noodles are cooked, move the pot to the sink and pour cold water over them. Drain some of the water out and pour more cold water over them again. This will help the noodles get chewier.
  3. Rinse and drain the noodles a couple of times until not slippery.  Put the noodles into a basket or colander.
To make mulnaengmyeon
  1. For each serving you need to make, mix 2 cups of stock in a bowl with 2 ts vinegar, 1 ts salt, and 2 ts sugar. Add more vinegar to taste. Add 5-7 ice cubes to make it even colder.
  2. Place noodles in a bowl and add the cold broth, cucumber, pear, mustard paste, and egg on top. Serve cold. If you have kimchi juice or young summer radish kimchi, add some to the noodle soup. It will taste even better!

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