4.261 Pyongyang (Mul) Naeng Myeon

-Cycle 4, Item 261-
23 (Mon) September 2013

Pyongyang (Mul) Naeng Myeon


at Neungla

-Bundang, Gyeonggi-

with The Folks and Aunt Helena

I'm off to Manila tomorrow for work, the details of which I'll share once my boots are on the grounds.

Whereas the personal tradition of eating my favorite dish on the evening before a flight has, since before the turn of the millenium, involved some form of jjajang myeon (see most recently 3.281 Spaghetti in 3-Minute Jjajang), the time for a change has come.  From now into the foreseeable future, the dish of honor shall henceforth be Pyongyang-style (PYS) mul naeng myeon (MNM), my current favorite dish.

The shift wasn't gradual.  It came about during my recent assessment of various PYS MNM restaurants in Seoul (see 4.184 The Eulmildae MNM...).  I'd initiated the project as an interested yet impassive investigator.  A few reviews in, however, the process triggered a latent lust for the dish that soon turned into a full blown manic obsession.  In addition to the servings that I was having for dinner and featuring in the posts, I was going back to the restaurants at lunch to confirm my previous impressions.  It was the last thing that I'd think about while falling asleep and the first thing on my mind upon waking the following morning.

Eating PYS MNM just before hitting the road makes sense also because it's unavailable outside of Korea--South Korea, ironically, as explained below--while jjajang myeon can be found throughout the world.  I've had jjajang myeon or at least seen it on menus, mostly in Korean restaurants, from Switzerland and France, Sri Lanka, to Laos and Cambodia--at a North Korean restaurant, ironically.  But, as the preliminary findings of the Global Alliance for PYS MNM (GAPYSMNM) would suggest, if PYS MNM ain't found in New York, as reported by City Chief NY of GAPYSMNM (CCNYGAPYSMNM) (thanks, David!) (see 4.207 (Mul) Naeng Myeon), or in Los Angeles,  as reported by City Chief LA of GAPYSMNM (CCLAGAPYSMNM) (thanks, Lisa!), then it don't exist anywheres else.

In CCSWEGAPYSMNM's handwriting, immediate impressions of 3 MPY MNM paratypes from 3 different locations.

Speaking of PYS MNM in other countries, I present here MPY MNM: Modern Pyongyang Mul Naeng Myeon as it is served in Pyongyang itself.  Last month, in my capacity as Supreme Overlord of the GAPYSMNM (SOLGAPYSMNM), I dispatched Country Commander Sweden of the GAPYSMNM (CCSWEGAPYSMNM) to Pyongyang on an intel op to photograph, taste, and document MNM at the source.  Mission accomplished, he made it out of the DPRK safely and reported back to me in Seoul (Thanks, Gustaf!).  To avoid suspicion, I arranged the debriefing at a PYS MNM restaurant (see 4.234 OKRKL/10 Mapo Jinjja Wonjo Choidepo...).

As CCSWEGAPYSMNM's images and notes reveal, in stark contrast to PYS MNM, MPY MNM has mutated through 60 years of divergent and isolated evolution.  Tangy broth.  Dark, rubbery noodles.  Gochujang topping.  I've experienced the same thing at a DPRK "laeng myeon" restaurant in Phnom Penh (see 3.269 Fried Beef with Red Ants).  Actually, MPY MNM would seem to bear some resemblance, at least in appearance, to chilg naeng myeon (see for example 3.196 Grilled Ribeye and Skirt), as can be seen in the photos below sent to me by CCLAGAPYSMNM.

So, no, this is not CS-PYS MNM, but it may in fact be MPY MNM.

As I'd surmised in my previous report, the PYS MNM down here--which, in all seriousness, I am now going to refer to as "Contemporary Southern Pyongyang-Style MNM (CS-PYS MNM)"--is nothing like the MPY MNM up there.  And both likely are very different from the O(riginal)PY MNM as it was pre-1950, before the country was split, a form that probably no longer exists in any formal setting, as in a restaurant, just perhaps in a few homes scattered across the northern countryside, where some very old women may still make the dish as they had learned it from their mothers, a tradition that may soon die with them.  

In the same strip mall as Chilbo Myunok, courtesy of CCLAGAPYSMNM (see for context 4.126 Momo).

Anyway, see you on the other side.


  1. Wow Gustaf really came through here, at great personal risk no less. What a guy, and what a fascinating wrinkle in the whole story. It's might be true that the PYS MNM we've been chasing doesn't even exist?

    I'm also a big JJM fan, but I tell you, it just stinks in NYC. Bland and watery. LA is a different story however. I tried to find a list online of great JJM places in Seoul and came up blank. I hate to send you on another suicide mission but it might be a good theme for a group of posts someday.

    1. yeah, as i mention in the post, OPY PYS MNM probably no longer exists. but when u come to seoul, i'll introduce u to CS-PYS MNM.

      as for JJM, a couple years ago, i once started keeping a separate journal, determined to hit at least 1 new place every week on average, so that i could rank 50 every year. but JJM is so ubiquitous, and frankly, within certain groups--cheap delivery joints, mid-level places, hotels and high end--they all kinda taste the same. i found the mid-level places generally the best, i think because the high end establishments don't really concern themselves with JJM, which is usually an afterthought in relation to the more expensive/fancy dishes.

      people here seem more interested in ranking jjambbong places. my friend MtG once took a trip around the country to taste the supposed Top 5 jjambbongs. i guess jjambbong has more variance.

  2. you have officially gone off the deep end. i have no idea what you are talking about withe crazy acronyms. but thanks for posting my pics. i think you said it was just like the original found in the DPRK.

  3. i suppose DSM-IV would classify my condition as OCPD.

    funny thing about momo: in korea, for some reason, there are lots of businesses named 이안; i've seen a bar, computer repair shop, carpet store, and even the pediatric clinic in E-Mart.

  4. Nice post man! But regarding the MPY MNM, the MNM I had might just as well been "touristy", not the ones real North Koreans would eat, due to the fact that every restaurant we visited were designated "tourist restaurants"..

    All that talk about Korean food in the US reall makes we want to try I when I'm there the next time, especially Cali. But on the other hand, it would go against my principle of only eating the "domestic" food the places I visit, and stay away from foreign foods (i.e. not eating burgers in Korea...)

  5. that's an excellent point about the MNM in DPRK. it might actually be T-MPY MNM! there might be L(ocal)-MPY MNM. crap, and i thought that i had this figured out. oh well, more abbreviations the better.

    that's interesting about korean food in the US.

    i think the rule is really (1) meant to prevent someone from eating what he would normally eat at home when he's traveling. so, no korean for koreans. americans should also avoid burgers abroad. but, (2) because burgers, especially fast food burgers, e.g., McD, is so common everywhere, same with something like domino's pizza, it would also prevent most everyone from eating burgers/pizza abroad, unless of course he's in the states at some famous burger joint or italy at a pizza restaurant.

    i think someone like u would definitely be allowed to eat korean food in the states, just so u could compare the experiences. maybe if you're there for only a day, i'd stick with something more classically american, but if u had a spare meal, then ok. i mean, if i saw a swedish restaurant in manila, and i was there for a couple weeks, then i'd totally try it out.

    i think it's also cool if there's some kind of historical connection between the "foreign" food and the country, like eating korean food in K-Town LA, or cuban food in Miami, or smorgasbord in Minnesota. or spanish food in manila, or malaysian in singapore, etc.

  6. Ki: the abbrevivations-phile :)

    I guess you have a point. If I would be in the US, I would probably stay more than one day, so I would def. have an opportunity to eat some Korean food then... Come to think of it, the thought of doing sightseeing in LA sounds like such a hassle though.. considering the traffic and the lack of public transportation....

  7. another exception to the rule, i think it's okay to try one's own cuisine in a different country just to see what it's like, so long one has first tried some of the local food and has an extra meal to spare. like recently in manila, it was interesting to taste kimchi made with what was probably fish sauce rather than the usual korean shrimp paste. i remember in thailand decades ago it was strange eating korean food with jasmine rice (probably just as weird for thais to eat thai food in korea with korean sticky rice). i mean, while u were living here, wouldn't u have gone to a swedish restaurant just for fun if there was one?

  8. Yeah, you might have a point there. To be honest, when I was in Shanghai a couple of years ago with my parents, we went to IKEA and ate meatball (with french fries though, not potatoes as we would eat it in Sweden)... I actually got made fun by some friends for doing that, but I just thought it would be cool to see and try some genuine Swedish culture on the other side of the planet... So yeah, if I would have found a Swedish restaurant in Korea while I was living there, I would definitely have gone there. I actually think there is such a restaurant though. I remember a friend living in Korea going there and posting pictures on Facebook about it... Can't recall the name of the places though...

  9. a swede eating köttbullar at ikea is pretty much like an american eating a burger at McD, so no, that doesn't really fit into my allowable exception. sorry buddy.

    when i was doing my countries project, i think i saw some reference to a swedish restaurant in hongdae, but never followed thru, because i just ended up cooking kåldolar instead. i'll should look back into it...

  10. 1. DAMN :(

    2. I tried google for it, but couldn't find any info. There might be info on the Korean part of the web though...