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4.148 The Pil-Dong Myeonok MNM: Seoul-Searching for Pyongyang-Style Perfection (1)


-Cycle 4, Item 148-
2 (Sun) June 2013

-Korean-
(Mul) Naeng Myeon

2.5

at Pil-Dong Myeonok

-Pil-Dong, Seoul-

with Wife, Dominic, Ian

I'm on a mission to determine Seoul's best representative of Pyongyang-style (PYS) mul naeng myeon (MNM) .  The idea was inspired by a 2011 newspaper article that I recently saw (see 4.141 Mul Naeng Myeon) featuring customer surveys on the most popular MNM joints in the city, including 8 that reportedly do the dish à la Pyongyang; I'll start with those.

This is the 1st restaurant, in no particular order, to be reviewed.  It was my second visit to Pil-Dong Myeonok.  On my prior visit, I'd tried the MNM and given it an informal 3.0 rating in the supplemental photos (see generally 2.201 Mandu Guk), but I wasn't paying much attention at that time and didn't really discuss it in the post.  On this occasion, I tried the dish de novo with a more critical/clinical mindset.

Floor seating upstairs.

Befitting a grandson of northerners, Ian loves MNM, as does Dominic.

The tasting process: (i) two sips of broth; (ii) two bites of noodles; (iii) two bites of noodles with various toppings; (iv) another sip of broth; (v) another bite of noodles; and, if necessary, (vi) another sip of broth following an adjustments with vinegar and/or mustard, although the necessity of any such adjustment probably means that the game is already lost.

Hardcore establishments don't offer spoons, even though MNM is a broth dish; the custom is to drink the broth straight out of the bowl (see for example 3.065 Mul Naeng Myeon).

BROTH.  Very beefy, which would ordinarily be a good thing, in any dish, but in this case it was too beefy, suspiciously so, as if they'd added some concentrated stock to boost the beefiness.  True PYS MNM should be more subtle.  Otherwise, the broth was appropriately dry, neither sweet nor sour.

NOODLES.  Insufficient buckwheat and too thin, thus reducing the characteristically doughy mouthfeel and starchy flavor of PYS noodles.


TOPPINGS.  Sliced beef + pork, boiled egg (half), sliced daepa (large scallion), sliced green chilies, red chili powder, sesame seeds.  Although I do like the piquant counterpoint effect of fresh daepa as a topping on rich dishes, the onion flavor came across too strong in a lean dish like this.  Same with the green chilies.  As for the chili powder and sesame seeds, which are distinctly unorthodox, neither really affected the flavor profile and just made the broth all messy.  Ultimately, I left most of the broth untouched because of all the crap floating on top.

Messy.

CONCLUSION.  Overall, okay.  But the broth overshot the mark and the noodles fell way short to constitute a good PYS MNM.   It could serve as a gateway MNM for anyone who isn't yet familiar with the hardcore stuff, which is admittedly an acquired taste.

PRICE.  9,000 won + 6,000 won for a double order (gobbaegi (곱배기)) or extra noodles after the fact (sari (사리)); the main photo shows a double order.

HOURS.  11:00 - 21:00; closed every 2nd and 4th Sunday

CONTACT INFO.  Seoul Jung-Gu Pil-Dong 3-Ga 1-5 (서울시 중구 필동3가 1-5); (02) 2266-2611

These points will be summarized, maybe in a chart of some sort, once I'm done reviewing all the restaurants.

Interestingly, the menu lists bibim naeng myeon as "bibim" and MNM as "naeng myeon," suggesting that MNM is the definitive form.

6 comments:

  1. I have to say that I'm excited about this new "project" of yours! I really like 냉면. But to be honest, I appreciate 비빔냉면 more, especially in those types of establishments that serve you free meat with an order...

    But from reading your posts concerning 냉면, the type of noodles used in 비빔냉면 aren't really that authentic "Northern" right?

    Btw I recently saw a clip from a show where they went to have some "authentic" MNM, and apparently the right way to consume them is to try to slurp them up in one go, not cutting them up in scissors beforehand? This made me confused, since even at the North Korean restaurant we both have visited in Phonm Phen, they provide scissors to cut up the MNM....

    Btw I will sure to write up a list of all the "landmark eats" you've listed in this blog and try to visit as many as I can when I go to Korea in August...

    ReplyDelete
  2. what kind of NM restaurants give you free meat???

    so much confusion concerning NM! in fact, the Korea Times published an article concerning NM, and they got it all wrong. i even left a comment on their FB page (see https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=402287479879092&set=a.227457437362098.50687.227456724028836&type=1&theater&notif_t=like), but they never responded. actually, i don't even know if it was published, because i can't seem to find the comment other than thru that URL.

    both MNM and BNM are northern.

    the pyeongyang style uses more buckwheat in the noodles, making them doughy in texture, no scissors needed, while hamheung uses more potato starch, making them chewy, requiring scissors.

    MNM doesn't have a specific regional origin, but BNM, particularly hoe (회) BNM is attributed to the coastal region of hamheung. thus, some people argue that BNM should be made only with the potato starch noodles.

    but pyeongyang style restaurants offer MNM and BNM using the buckwheat noodles, while hamheung style restaurants offer both using the potato starch noodles.

    these days, especially in seoul, the noodles in mainstream restaurants tend to be a hybrid. i don't know the composition, but they're kinda dark in color like buckwheat but have a chewier texture like potato starch.

    as mentioned above, people who eat pyeongyang style noodles refuse scissors on principle, probably to make a point that "real" noodles should be made with buckwheat. hamheung style is impossible to eat without cutting first.

    that north korean restaurant in PP, as i wrote in that post, was TOTALLY NOT NORTH KOREAN in the food. the NM was AWFUL.

    more landmark eats coming up!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1. as far as I remember, at least most of the NM restaurants in Anam-dong served meat together with orders of bibim naengmyon. If that means the meat was "free" or rather "included" with an order of NM, I'm not sure...

    2. Thank you for a detailed explanation about the difference between the different styles of NM. I will definitely try both types to see if I can tell a difference (which I really hope I do).

    Btw I plan on visiting Gumi, Ulsan and Pohang on my trip to Korea, do you know any special dishes from those places I should'nt miss? I recall being told the 회 in Pohang is really good...


    ReplyDelete
  4. 1. i have no idea what you're talking about, unless it was some kind of set meal, as you mentioned, but you made it seem like a common thing in that area, which is news to me (not that i've ever eaten in anam-dong). in los angeles, it was very common to see beef galbi + naeng myeon sets, called "galnaeng" for short.

    2. there's a more detailed explanation at post 1.188.

    3. don't know about those cities yet, but i'll look into it....

    4. generally though, about hoe in coastal cities, i've had it many times in many such cities, but i never noticed much difference than the good places in seoul. i mean, it's the same fish. seoul's close enough that the markets here get the morning's catch on the same morning. i'd bet that the better fish is actually sent to seoul because it can be sold for a higher price. and of course the set-up and service is the same anywhere in the country (see for example http://project365ki.blogspot.kr/2012/02/3038-bok-dodari-hoe.html). that said, it's nice to eat the fish while looking at the ocean....

    ReplyDelete
  5. 1. What you mention (galbi + naeng myeon sets) is exactly what I'm talking about. Sorry for not being able to explain/remember it properly.

    4. You might have a point there. On that note, I should probably also visit the big fish market (Noranjing?) while I'm Seoul...

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1. galnaeng is an anam-dong thing? never knew that. always thought it was only in LA.

    2. noryangjin is a definite must-go/eat experience. the spread won't be very elaborate--just the fish/crab/whatever that you buy--but i like that i'm not paying more for a bunch of bullshit sides that i don't want. and again, it's the same exact products at the same prices. it's also open 24 hrs.

    ReplyDelete