Few weeks ago mom and I decided to have naengmyun (냉면: cold buckwheat noodles) for lunch. She insisted that out of many naengmyun places in Daejeon we would go to a place that makes Pyongyang-style noodles. Her reason was that ever since she was young she was told that the recipe originated from capital of North Korea is the best for mul-naengmyun (물냉면: buckwheat noodles in icy broth). On the other hand, it is known that Hamheung (another city in North Korea) style is the one to go if you are craving for bibim-naengmyun (비빔냉면: buckwheat noodles mixed with spicy sauce).
You cannot expect everyone’s taste buds to be the same so of course mom’s opinion is her own. But since I am no master when it comes to discussing the origin of classic North Korean food I decided that I will go along with her decision and see if Pyongyang style mul-naengmyun is really the one to impress.
Mom explained that because North Korea is mostly consist of hills and mountains the people up there have always had hard time farming rice. So buckwheat became a popular crop to be served on North Koreans’ dinner table. There is a saying that the best way to enjoy cold buckwheat noodles is to eat it on a freezing winter day while warming yourself in an ondolbang (traditional Korean room with floor heating system).
The Pyongyang style naengmyun was definitely different than the cold noodles that I am used to. The broth is more mild and refreshing and texture of the noodles is more soft. I purposely did not add too much vinegar and mustard as I wanted to taste the actual flavor of the broth. Mom told me that many young people who are more addicted to stimulating flavors would not enjoy the traditional Pyongyang style naengmyun as they believe it is too bland. I personally enjoyed the clean and refreshing taste of North Korean naengmyun. Hopefully one day I get to try the original in the hometown of cold buckwheat noodles.