In summer, Koreans enjoy cold noodle soup to momentarily escape the humidity. Naengmyeon, cold buckwheat noodles, is a popular North Korean dish that spread across southern part of Korean peninsula with the migration of refugees during the Korean War.
Chogye naengmyeon is another variation of cold buckwheat noodle soup developed from chogyetang, a traditional soup originated from what are now Hamgyeong-do and Pyeongan-do provinces of North Korea. The word “gye“, often mistaken as the hanja for “chicken”, is actually local dialect meaning “mustard”. The buckwheat noodles are placed in cold chicken broth dressed with shredded chicken and vegetables. The key is to season the soup with mustard and vinegar, for that sweet and sour taste.
I first taste the broth without adding seasoning. The cold soup tastes a little bland but I like its clean and light flavour. I would add mustard and vinegar when I am half way through the bowl. That way I can taste the plain version as well as sweet-and-sour.
The thinly sliced cucumbers and pears add nice texture. The noodles have subtle nuttiness of buckwheat. The Pyeongyang-style white kimchi is simple and non-spicy. The great thing about North Korean food is that they do not use pungent spices nor preservatives of any kind. For younger South Koreans who are accustomed to strong, spicy flavours, the noodle soup could be too bland and boring.
The restaurant Neungla Bapsang is specialized in North Korean fares. The founder Dr. Lee Ae-ran, a North Korean food specialist and a defector, opened up the place in 2012 to provided jobs for defected North Korean women like herself. Dr. Lee explained on her blog how she feels that the food will play significant role in unification of two Koreas.
Neungla Bapsang 능라밥상
2nd floor, 42, Donhwamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul