Korea gets really hot and humid in Summer. It is only the first week in July, but the summer heat is already in full swing. To combat the sticky days and airless nights, a couple of cooling dishes are created to beat the summer heat here in Korea. These dishes like Naeng-Myun (냉면,cold noodles), Hwa-che (화채, Fruit Punch) and Pat-bingsu (팥빙수, shaved-ice dessert with red bean paste), although some are very identical to Japanese food, are all well loved by the Koreans.
Yurim-Myeon, a noodle house that is located near City Hall Station, serves one of the best cold buckwheat noodles in Seoul. Serving their noodles from a recipe passed down through 3 generations, this place has gathered “Noodles Know-How” for more than 50 years. I was told they serve 6 menus (menus may differ slightly due to season changes) with pride because they only use ingredients that are grown in Korea.
Here are the dishes they serve during my visit a week ago:
메밀 국수 Memil Guksu (buckwheat noodles) KRW 7,000
비빔 메밀 Bibim Memil (buckwheat noodles with red hot pepper paste) KRW 8,000
비빔 국수 Bibim Guksu (noodles with vegetables and red hot pepper paste) KRW 7,000
냄비 우동 Naembi Udong (udon noodles in a hot pot) KRW7,000
As their Naembi Udong is the most popular dish, we settled down with one of it, and a “Memil Guksu” buckwheat noodles.
The tsuyu soup stock and shallots arrived first before the noodles. Judging at the tsuyu itself you know it is going to be very different from an ordinary Japanese soba as Japanese soba are usually served with a clearer sauce.Yulim-Myeon’s version of tsuyu, however, is mixed up with chopped radish.
The cold buckwheat noodles arrived a few minutes later. It was rather plain in appearance with dried seaweed on top of the noodles though the translucent gloss shinning from the noodles itself is clearly a good sign of a well prepared dish.
From what I understand, good soba is rinsed rather vigorously in cold running water. The most common misconception about making soba is the idea that you plunged the noodles in the cold water to cool it off, which is, in fact, wrong. Good soba is rinsed (or washed to be exact) under cold running water repeatedly. This procedure is said to effectively get rid off excess starch which will adversely affect the flavour of the noodles.
It was a total surprise that a serving of buckwheat noodle actually comes in two separated bamboo mat boxes that come in a stack. I didn’t know about it until I tried to remove the noodle boxes. ^^;;
This is basically how you eat their noodles: pour the shallots in the soup stock, add some mustard and mix them well. To eat it, simply take a portion of the noodle, one mouthful each time, dip it briefly in the sauce, and there you go SLURPing~
The tsuyu soup stock was well-done, I must say. Sweet and saltish, the fragrance of the soup stock imbues the radish with well-rounded flavours. Noodles come in smooth, chewy al-dente texture on the tongue. Together with the crisp of the shallots and radish, it is a refreshing pleasure to slurp it down your throat.
If you paid close attention to Korean pop-culture recently, I am sure you’ll find this picture above very familiar — it was the filming location of the popular drama <My love from the Star> starred by Kim Suhyun and Jeon Jihyun. In fact, the place where I took the picture was exactly where Do Minjoon (Kim Suhyun) was seated in the drama.
Remember the scene Cheon Songyi said that she hated eating alone? Do Minjoon was actually having udon with Lawyer Jang while receiving Songyi’s call that she was hungry. When he decided to get her a meal, he remembered Songyi’s preference for having someone dining together with her, so he actually got home with two udons just to accompany her eating.
So how does this Naembi Udon actually taste like?
It is a rather simple dish with mushrooms, fish cakes and an egg. The soy sauce based broth is light and clean, subtle salty, leaving a bit of sweetness on your tastebuds. A comforting dish I would say, but nothing more than that. To be honest, the texture of the noodle does not leave me much impression. It pales in comparison with Tamoya Udon we have in Liang Court back in Singapore. If you really crave for good udon in Seoul, I would recommend the Udon chain from Shinjuku —Marukame that landed Gangnam last winter.
My Verdict: Their cold buckwheat noodle (maemil guksu) is currently top of my list. I am certainly going back for it. I heard their Bibim maemil is great too. If you like spicy cold noodles, you should go for it. However, I don’t think I am going for their Naembi Udon. It is nice, but a tad too simple. Not unless I am not feeling well during colder days and needed something comforting and not too heavy. This place certainly gains a little more publication after the <My love from the star> drama craze. That said, serving up noodles for more than 50 years, they certainly know their ground and was already well loved by the people, even before the drama. The Ideal place to visit this summer if you need to cool down the heat a bit.
Yurim Myeon 유림면
139-1, Seosomun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
서울 중구 서소문로 139-1 (서소문동)
Tel: +82-2-755-0659 (Reservation available during lunch time only)
Operation hours: 11am- 830pm.
How to get there: As there are no big carparks nearby, it is recommended to take public transport to the restaurant.
1. Get off at City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 or 2), Exit 12, or 11. I recommend taking Exit 11. 2. Upon exiting the station, walk towards the direction to Deoksugung Doldam-gil. 3. Pass one building, and immediately turn left into an alley. You’ll be able to see their front gate, which look like this: