Do These Noodles Look Kind of Alive in the Bowl?

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Photos by Mai Pham
This is the picture I posted on Twitter. Do the noodles look alive?
When I posted this picture with my Tweet of "Cold Korean noodles rock!," I thought people would take a look at the picture and immediately agree about how yummy it looked. But no, that's not quite what happened.

Nicholas Hall tweeted me back with a skeptical "Is it just me, or does that kind of look alive in the bowl?" On second inspection, I can definitely see what he was getting at, and I blame my phone camera for creating that illusion. They do have that sort of squirmy look.

In reality, the noodles weren't even close to alive and squirmy, and except for the hard-boiled egg, everything in it was entirely made of vegetables. And, they were dadgum tasty. Called naeng-myoeon (and pronounced phonetically neng mee-un), they are my most recent obsession when it comes to Korean food. Made of buckwheat noodles, cucumbers, sliced pear or radish, and a special recipe sweet-and-spicy red sauce, these are not just room-temperature cold. They are refreshingly ice-cold, made so by the fact that the recipe calls for them to be bathed in ice water prior to being drained.

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"Naeng-myoeon", cold Korean spicy noodle, before you mix them up in the bowl
The result is an intoxicatingly cold, pleasingly chewy, spicy noodle that immediately assaults your senses with a rush of pleasure-tingling icy coldness, similar to what you feel when you take your first lick of an ice cream cone. The sauce, made of a vegetable blend and Korean red chili paste, is thick and viscous, the flavor a harmonious blend of tangy, sweet, and spicy, but not as spicy as you'd expect from the color of the sauce. Rather, the spice gives off a slow-burning kick that is hot but won't cause that overwhelming explosion of sweat-inducing heat.

It's one of the best and most memorable dishes I've tasted in the last month, a wonderful discovery because I stumbled upon it by myself entirely by accident. On a recent visit to my favorite dumpling house, I saw the shiny silver bowl holding the noodles as I walked in, and asked the two Korean patrons eating it whether it was good. "What is it called?" I asked them. They looked at each other and then at me, and instead of pronouncing the Korean name, naeng-myoeon, they replied "Cold Korean Spicy Noodle."

I'm told you can get this at most Korean restaurants, but if you want this exact one, go to the Dumpling King, three-Chinese-letter dumpling house next to Arirang Korean Restaurant, and that's where you'll find them.


Location Info

Dumpling King

6515 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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7 comments
Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

For what it's worth, my comment was not an indication that the dish looked unpleasant, just a comment on a visual similarity. I'm a huge fan of cold noodle dishes in myriad forms, and this one sounds quite tasty. A while back, I did my own piece on cold soba with tsuyu (http://blogs.houstonpress.com/..., one of my personal favorite cold noodle applications. I don't know much about Korean food, but everything I hear (and see) leads me to the conclusion that further exploration is long overdue.

Your second photo here does the dish much more justice, though ;-) 

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Mul naeng myoeon is my favorite Korean meal of all time. Topped with Asian pear, then add generous amounts of vinegar and hot mustard. (FYI, "mul" means water in Hangul.)

Korean Person
Korean Person

You should try mool naeng myun (it's basically like naeng myun except in a ice-cold sour/sweet/tangy broth. It's the bees knees. My mom says you can't find any decent mool naeng myun at any restaurant in Houston, but I think she's being a little elitist.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Ok, that's two votes for the soupy version. Where do you get yours? Or do you make it at home? Someone replied to my Twitter and told me you can get the instant (cup-o-noodle pre-made) version at H-Mart, but I want fresh made...

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

The bees knees? Obviously, I have to try it.  Where would you go? I think they mentioned that they have it this place, too.

Clumsy Plumsy
Clumsy Plumsy

I've heard Korean Noodle House has a good version.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks, I'll check it out!

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