One of the Oldest Restaurants in Seoul
A short walk from Seoul City Hall is another age-old restaurant. Listed on Korean Food Foundation‘s “100 Oldest Korean Restaurants”, Gangseo Myeonog was first established in 1948 in the village of Gangseo in Pyoengannam-do, current North Korea. People are often confused because “gangseo” means “west of river”, referring to west part of Seoul. However, it had been decades since the restaurant made gangbuk, north of Han River, a new home.
The Third Battle of Seoul, also known as January-Fourth Retreat, forced the late founder Kim Young-geun and his family to flee their hometown and seek refugee down south. In Pyeongtaek, Kim re-opened the noodle shop that he had operated back home and made continued to make traditional North Korean noodle soup. After Kim passed away, his daughter took over and relocated to current location in central Seoul.
A North-Korean Noodle Place Favoured by Dictators
The story behind Gangseo and The Blue House goes back to early 1970’s under Park’s dictatorship. One day, officials in suits walked in and demanded to reveal the cooking process from scratch. Kim and her husband, although threatened, denied to disclose their secret recipe. The Blue House then took the broth to the national lab and attempted to analyze the components. For next twenty years, Gangseo’s cold buckwheat noodle soup was delivered to The Blue House to serve then-presidents including Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, and Roh Tae-woo.
Gangseo’s signature naengmyeon is highlighted by aromatic broth with distinctive meaty flavour and pure buckwheat noodles. The simple soup has a bundle of noodles wrapped around a piece of radish. Only four sliced toppings makes it simpler: a slice of beef, Asian pear, cucumber, and halved boiled egg.
As always, vinegar and mustard are available for extra seasoning. However, enjoying the blandness of Pyeongyang naengmyeon is one way to experience the old tradition of North Korean culture.
120-15 Seosomun-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea