Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Cold Noodles with Hot Broth on a Hot Day
I'll say it right off the bat. I don't go to Chilbomyunok for its nengmyun, the cold, soupy buckwheat Korean noodle dish that is classic summer food. I go for its deep-flavored, most comforting food of all times -- yooksu, literally translated as beef broth.
It would be a misnomer to call it mere beef broth. The yooksu here, which the restaurant uses as a base for its nengmyun, is so complex and delicious that it makes up for the average nengmyun and banchan, or side dishes.
It's nothing pretty to look at, but the minute you slurp its perfectly seasoned, warm goodness, you can't get enough. Before you know it, your noodles have arrived. The curious thing is that if the nengmyun uses the same broth base, then why is it that the flavors are skin-deep compared with the broth separately? The only explanation is that they dilute the broth significantly. Sometimes I order the beet-red bibim nengmyun (above) as opposed to the less spicy mool ("water" as opposed to the "dry and mixed" kind) because I think it's harder to the get the mool nengmyun right.
I have yet to find a nengmyun place as good as those in Korea (Think Kobaksa Nengmyun). Perfect broth (seasoned to taste with mustard and vinegar) with chewy buckwheat noodles, half a boiled egg, slices radishes, crunchy Asian pear slivers, cucumbers and a few slabs of meat. Now that was summer in a bowl. Sometimes I actually miss those hot, painfully humid summer days in Seoul. Even the monsoon season. But I digress. The bibim nengmyun doesn't have as much soup/broth and basically comes "dressed" in a spicy and slightly sweet red pepper sauce with the same ingredients that go into the watery version. When it's good, you won't care that you've developed a red moustache around your lips from the spice.
Ok, so it is one of the better places among the slim pickings, but not sure that's saying much. To be fair, their banchan of potato salad, zucchini, radishes, and especially the onion and greens salad were decent. The bindaettuk, or mung bean pancake, is a bit too greasy and diluted (not enough mung bean in the patty mixture) like most Korean restaurants. But it's crispy and does the trick if you're hungry.
Skip the dumplings. The meat filling tasted too strong.
All told, the broth makes a visit worthwhile. Check it out. They also serve barbecued meat at the table but I would go to other specialty places like Soot Bull Jeep or Park's Barbecue (bulgoki only) for that.
680 West 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020