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A tasty bowl of naengmyeon is never too far from home

Mar 16,2020
Easy-to-make cold noodle packages available in Korea. With the popularity of naengmyeon, food companies started to add different flavors to its cold noodles, including seaweed and acorn. [JOONGANG PHOTO, SCREEN CAPTURE]
While the historic naengmyeon, or cold noodle, houses with lines of people out the door on hot summer days and sometimes even on the weekend in the colder months may have their own distinct styles perfected over the decades, simple packaged naengmyeon also does the trick when cold noodle fans need it right away.

The ramyeon-like packages are also easy to pack in a suitcase or to give to friends overseas as gifts. Nongshim’s Doongji Naengmyeon, available in both mild and spicy flavors, was a hit when it first came out in 2008, as naengmyeon had long been thought of as something that’s not convenient to make at home.

The square-like package instantly gave many the idea that it would be just as easy to make as other instant Korean ramyeon. Although the taste may not be similar to the pyeongyang naengmyeon that’s trendy in Korea right now, it’s compactness has been welcomed by locals.

Although not quite the size of the ordinary ramyeon packages, big food companies like Pulmuone or CJ Cheiljedang put a lot of effort into each easy-to-cook pack. They often add the flavors of dongchimi, a watery style of white radish kimchi, to add acidity to the meat-flavored broth, to imitate the popular Pyongyang-style naengmyeon many Koreans love to eat these days. The process helps the factory-made naengmyeon have less pungent or strong flavors than the broth that includes vinegar, for example.

Besides the fact that the taste of these packaged noodles is appealing to consumers, the price also captures people’s attention. Doongji Naengmyeon is usually sold for around 1,000 won ($0.90), while other packages from CJ, for example, are sold for about 6,500 won for four servings. A bowl of naengmyeon at a restaurant is usually priced at 10,000 won or more.

Given that more people are becoming interested in preparing and cooking the cold noodles, food companies introduce other flavors as well. Nongshim added seaweed in its version of cold noodles and even tried making noodles for other packages using acorn. The variation is being developed to challenge the No. 1 product on the market, Paldo’s Bibimmyeon, when it comes to the category of cold noodles mixed with spicy sauce.

It’s not at all difficult to make naengmyeon, the popular cold noodles many eat throughout the year in Korea, since the basic concept is to have cold broth ready and put the cooked noodles inside.

If you want something that may require more of your involvement into making a bowl, you can try buying noodles and broth separately. Buckwheat noodles are easily found in retail stores online and offline, and there are some broth packages sold separately as well. This way, you can decide how much broth you need for a certain amount of noodles if you are a big soup drinker since the ramyeon-style packages may not give you enough to cool down your body temperature.

Or you can even boil your own broth. You can easily choose to use seafood such as anchovies and shrimp alongside vegetables like onions, white radish and kelp, or do it with a mix of beef and pork. You can season it with soy sauce, sugar and vinegar at the end to fit your taste.

If you are up for making your own, you can make even more variations like adding kimchi on top, or different types of seasoned vegetables just like some of the well-known naengmyeon places like Seogwan Myeonok does in southern Seoul’s Seocho District.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]