Review: Pyongyang Naengmyeon from Nampomyeonok in Euljiro (을지로에 남포면옥)

There's a list of cold Korean noodle dishes from nutty kongguksu to spicy-sweet bibimguksu but one of the most definite, if not the definite, cold noodle dish for Koreans is naengmyeon.

The Chinese characters off its name literally means 'cold noodles' if that give away what this dish is about. Now a days it's so closely associated with summer time that it's not at all uncommon to see many restaurants, even barbecue restaurants, advertising in the summer seasons that they have naengmyeon on the menu. There's nothing wrong with these cheaply priced naengmyeon as the broth is so chock full of MSG that it's hard to find many who disagree with its taste or cooling effects in the humid heat.

Unfortunately what so many gets wrong about these naengmyeon is that they are but a slight imitation of what they are in their pure, untouched form. And for the latter, one needs to go to the handful of proper naengmyeon restaurants around the city. The comparison I can offer is akin to one getting a cheap, happy hour slider from any neighborhood bar and getting a full on burger from a top burger joint. Both are tasty, sure, but the difference in levels are on an entirely different scale.


Naengmyeon is a cinch to whip up at home as one can simply pick up a pack of MSG naengmyeon broth from the local Korean market, dilute it with some water, and boil some naengmyeon noodles to add to it.

But true naengmyeon is not at all easily replicated at home. The OG, Pyongyang way of making the broth actually uses a combination of both meat broth and dongchimi broth. The ingredients that go into it, the mixture's ratio, and other details differs from one naengmyeon restaurant to another which is why even among the elite naengmyeon restaurants, this same dish will differ in taste. But when all of that is done right, what you get is an art in the making, mixing, and chilling of ambrosia-like broth that needs minimum additional seasoning and work.

Located just a stone's throw away from the Myeongdong area in Euljiro 1-ga, Nampomyeonok feels like you've stepped into a house where time has stopped. There are plenty of renovated hanok houses all around but when you pay careful attention to the details, you notice a lot of old school, original decor.




You can even spot an old naengmyeon tool- a traditional press that was used to squeeze out the chewy naengmyeon noodles.


Probably most eye-catching though is the rows of dongchimi that are sitting in underground basins. The dongchimi here is made in-house and daily and is the secret behind the naengmyeon at Nampomyeonok.





The naengmyeon varieties including bibim and warm naenmyeon are all priced at 10,000 and use real hanwoo (Korean premium beef). But even if you're not in the mood for naengmyeon you're in luck here as the ample use of hanwoo beef means you can also get galbitang, yook gejang, mandukguk, and ddeokmanduguk (all 9,500 each). A plate of mandu will set you back 8,000 while extra noodles is 7,000.


They do other dishes too including bulgogi, eobokjaengban (a North Korean stew-dish), sooyook and more, which are all significantly more pricier and meant for larger groups.


Make your order and what's brought out are kimchi, lightly pickled radish, and dongchimi. This famed dongchimi here is the secret behind their popular naengmyeon and is the epitome of refreshing. Utilizing natural ingredients like Asian pears for flavor and sweetness, the dongchimi is delightfully light and fresh, as the dongchimi isn't fermented long like the southern regions do. Take a sip of the dongchimi and you will naturally find yourself smacking your lips at its pristine flavors. 



As is characteristic of Northern flavors, the side dishes are light without heavy seasoning.



And like a proper naengmyeon house, you'll be served cups of yooksoo (nautral broth) from the long simmered beef. No MSG here but just good ol' pure broth here.


The dumplings here is made in-house from wrapping to stuffing as you can tell by their somewhat "humble" look. Humble is a euphemism for ugly because these aren't your standard, factory made , pretty little dumplings but thicker homemade dumpling skin. The stuffing inside is a mixture of pork, garlic, chives, and other seasonings. They're nothing extraordinary in taste but they're simple and enjoyable enough and having a bite of mandu in between slurping your noodles makes a nice combination.


Now, there's a lot of controversy and criticism over the price for a bowl of naengmyeon these days. Some restaurants in Gangnam charge up to 15,000 for a bowl. Certainly the hours of labor and toil that goes into a true bowl of naengmyeon justifies a higher price than most other noodle dishes but 15K is just ridiculous.

At 10,000, the naengmyeon here may also elicit some negative views but when the bowl actually comes out you'll find 10K is no overcharge. The serving in itself is ridiculously large. I've eaten the naengmyeon here several times and each time I'm astounded by how big and filling the naengmyeon here is to the point that sometimes ordering that plate of mandu on the side is an overkill. I remember the first time I came here I was about to order extra noodles when the serving ajumma actually stopped me.

With noodles, broth, beef slices, radish, pear, cucumber slices, and half a hard boiled egg. It's your standard naengmyeon in looks. To appreciate it in true fashion, avoid having it cut, no matter how clumpy the noodle may look.

In many ways, a good bowl of naengmyeon should be appreciated much like one would a good bowl of pho. Don't go messing with the broth by adding sauces and whatnot right away. Instead, sip that broth, appreciate its flavors and taste. Then add some mustard or vinegar to your liking and slurp away my friend.


You can definitely taste the beefiness in the broth but what really brings the naengmyeon here to another level is that delightful dongchimi broth. The heavier, grounded tastes of the beef broth and the light and crisp flavors of the dongchimi comes together to create a new medium for the chewy noodles. The crunchy textures of the cucumber, radish, and pear slices in between provides a nice contrast. This isn't just a bowl of noodles. This is art. 



The bibim naengmyeon is, like the regular naengmyeon, enormous. But the most surprising thing about it is how spicy it is. I'm pretty good at tolerating my spice levels but this is one spicy noodle, I can assure you. Make sure you have plenty of cold yooksoo on hand to slurp in between.


If I had to decide I'd go fully with the regular naengmyeon for sure. Excellent beef broth + homemade dongchimi is just too difficult to beat. Just make sure you come here hungy because you are going to be leaving almost groaning by how full you are.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 4 stars
This is Pyongyang Naengmyeon like it used to be made and the effort that goes into the signature naengmyeon- from the high-quality yooksoo to the crisp, refreshing house made dongchimi- is top notch. The bibim naengmyeon and mandu are good enough though its the naengmyeon that will bring you back. Size and portion wise, high marks as well.

Address: 
서울특별시 중구 을지로3길 24
24, Eulji-ro 3-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea


Come straight out of exit 2 of Euljiro1-ga station and just around the corner will be an alley going into the left. Enter the alley and go up about 80 meters until you see another alley on your right. Go up that alley for about 50 meters and you should see Nampomyeonok on your right in a giant hanok (traditional Korean house).

Telephone: 
02-777-3131

Website:
N/A

Parking: Not available

Alcohol: Soju, beer, and other Korean liquor available

Tip: 
If you have the money, their eo-bok-jaeng-ban (a sort of drier hot pot of beef and vegetables that's from the Pyongyang area)  is also quite famous. 

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  3. again read your file..very detailed and made me wanna have a try .LOL

    Plan again travel to Seoul and Tokyo in November, maybe meet up for a galbi if you are in town. Of coz my treat

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  4. I stumbled on your blog just by a google search!!! It is awesome! thanks so much!!!

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    1. I'm about 3 months late... but thank you very much for the compliment!

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