Pyeongyang Myeonok by Joel ParkTuesday, April 20, 2010
I would like to welcome a new writer to the Seoul Eats Team: Joel Park. He is a food lover that is going to be focusing on finding great Korean Eats in the city.
Here is his first story on Pyeongyang Myeonok.
There are four restaurants in Seoul that routinely come up when naengmyun aficionados talk about Pyeongyang style mulnaengmyun: Pyeongyang Myeonok, Pildong Myeonok, Eulji Myeonok, and Wooraeok. Collectively they are known as 평양냉면 4대천왕, or the Four Heavenly Kings of Pyeongyang Naengmyun. However, look up reviews online and you'll find they're mostly negative. Many Koreans are underwhelmed when they try the naengmyun. But step in one of those restaurants during lunchtime and you'll probably have to wait in line. So what's the deal?
It's all a matter of generational differences. Younger Seoulites grew up with foods like candy and chocolate. The clean, subtle taste of Pyeongyang naengmyun just can't excite their sugared-out tastebuds. The more flavorful broth and stringy, starchy noodles found in Hamheung style places suit them better. To them, Pyeongyang naengmyun is tasteless. It's too watery and bland. And the restaurant that takes that blandness to its extreme is Pyeongyang Myeonok.
Older generations of Koreans come here to relive a part of their past. They are the ones that fill up the seats at Pyeongyang Myeonok. Naengmyun to them must be clean and refreshing. This is what they grew up with; this what they remember. And this is what they get at Pyeongyang Myeonok. The beef and pork broth is actually watered down and there is only an alluring hint of meatiness. The noodles are chewy, but soft; there is no need to cut them. The noodles are made of buckwheat like soba noodles and have a similar flavor. Subtlety is the name of the game here.
I encourage everyone to try this naengmyun. People say you have to eat it around 10 times to fully appreciate the taste. A couple times should be enough. What starts off as tasteless eventually grows into a sea of subtle and subdued flavors, the opening of Das Rheingold in food form. It's also a piece of history in a stainless steel bowl.
Oh, and the dumplings are bomb. Everybody agrees on that.
Pyeongyang Myeonok, Jangchungdong branch
Seoul, Jung-gu, Jangchungdong 2 ga 26-14
Come out exit 8 of Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, turn around 180 degrees, and walk straight for 200 meters.