The Papa Bear jumped the gun on this one last night, but no summer Kalbi session is complete without a bowl of mul naeng myun in my world.
I've mentioned naeng myun or neng myun (does anyone know what the correct spelling is?) before already, but I chose to not go into detail. I was waiting for the right moment to report about my obsessive love for these bowls of chilled Korean noodles... Reimen, as it is called in Japan, directly translates to 'cold noodles', and it is a definite staple at any respectable Korean restaurant in Japan. I grew up slurping these cold buckwheat noodles every time I had kalbi in Japan, which was quite frankly, almost every weekend...
Being the lucky girl that I am, I have a Korean collaborator/friend at work now, and she recommended a Korean grocery store in Santa Clara last week as the place she goes for her Korean groceries. She also set me on the right track by suggesting a noodle company I should check out whose products are sold there. With tasty, chewy noodles on my mind, I dragged my lazy butt down to the South Bay last Sunday.
And let me tell you - the experience was totally worth the 45 min+ drive!
Amazingly, as I walked into the grocery store, I was greeted by a sample station for mul naeng myun! What coincidence! I sampled a bite and was genuinely impressed by the chewy, flavorful noodles. The lady at the sample station told me all about how to best prepare the noodles, which she claimed she had made herself. The packaging looked homemade enough that I am inclined to believe her. I picked up a few of her noodles along with a couple packages of the noodles recommended by my friend. And boy, the kimchee bar - that was nothing short of amazing. So many varieties of kimchee, all available deli-style. That experience is totally worth a whole 'nother post one of these days.
What's amazing about these fresh naeng myun packages is the ease with which they can be prepared. Literally, 20 seconds in boiling water is all it takes. The soup packages are only OK, but with a whole heap of kimchee and other pickled vegetables, the weakness of the soup is totally hidden by the power and explosion of kimchilicious flavors.
And best of all, I had restaurant-quality naeng myun in half the time it takes for me to drive to Sam Won BBQ!!!
PS: Do you think pickled vegetables count as fresh produce? It's not really fresh, so I try to not think about it as a deviation from my NoCal LoCal challenge...
PS II: Some of my mul naeng myun packages claim to be arrowroot noodles while others are translated as buckwheat noodles. Interestingly, the ones that are arrowroot noodles also have buckwheat in them but have arrowroot juices as an additional ingredient. I'm planning a taste comparison soon, but if anyone has any insight on whether one or the other is the more proper 'mul naeng myun', please let me know!!