And then suddenly winter doesn’t seem so bad. It’s 3 degrees outside and I’m not making a rich hearty sew. No, in fact, I’m making Korean ice soup.
I’ve always associated this dish with summer for its cooling properties but it turns out that traditionally it’s a winter dish owing to the fact that before modern refrigeration, the winter was the only time to eat truly cold food.
This is mul naeng–myun. Made from buckwheat noodles and a gelatinous clear broth. The broth, though traditionally made with beef and oxtail, isn’t heavy. Chilled, it’s comforting, like the way cold chicken salad is comforting. Mul naeng–myun is a sister dish to bibim naeng–myun, where the noodles are coated in a hot pepper sauce.
Mul naeng–myun is usually adorned with thin slices of beef brisket, sliced cucumbers, Korean pear and sometimes an egg. Yellow mustard and rice vinegar are served table side to give the broth tang. I usually go double mustard.
It’s the ultimate summer soup. Gazpacho has it’s place but a good bowl of mul naeng–myun will have actual slushy pieces of frozen both floating around. It reminds me of the Snapple Apple slushies the ice cream truck guy would make after school by partially freezing the Snapple bottle.
For a treat from the masters, head to Keum Sung Food way out past Flushing, Queens. Thanks for the tip.
Or, for something a little more accessible, many restaurants in Koreatown (32nd St between Broadway and 5th). Madangsui is actually a couple of blocks up and serves a very solid naeng–myun.
Others have attempted to make it at home and I commend them! Perhaps in another lifetime I’ll attempt it but for now, the store-bought will have to do. You can buy 2 servings of refrigerated mul naeng–myun for about $5.00 from any Korean market. I recommend the newly renovated H Mart on 32nd St. You’re also likely to find packages of dry mul naeng–myun noodles and stock packets. You can even buy them online. Stock up on Korean pears and radishes while you’re there!
This isn’t exactly a recipe but here goes!
1 package refrigerated mul naeng–myun noodles and soup base
6 very thin slices of lean beef brisket
2 soft-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half
10 slices Korean or Asian pear
10 thin cucumber spears
1. Cook the fresh noodles according to package directions (likely 1-2 minutes) in boiling water. Remove using tongs and then swish the beef around in the boiling water so it’s just cooked through. Chill noodles in ice water and beef in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
2. Keep the broth chilled in the fridge and assemble with the noodles, beef, eggs, cucumber and pears.
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