Review: Buwon Myeonok (부원면옥)

Located within the sprawling Namdaemun Market, and not too far from the kalguksu alley, Buwon Myeonok is a lesser known naengmyeon house compared to the more famed naengmyeon institutions of Seoul which is surprising considering that Buwon Myeonok has quite a level of pedigree to it as well having opened up in this same spot in 1960!

One of the biggest draws about Buwon Myeonok is the prices; in a time where a bowl of naengmyeon in some of the well-known restaurants in Seoul are being sold for 12-14K a bowl, Buwon Myeonok dishes out its cold noodles for only 7K a bowl (7.5K for the bibim variety). Feeling hungry? An extra large serving will only cost you 1K more.

They also offer up some sides and anjoo dishes that I've heard are quite popular with the surrounding ajoshi crowds including jeyook muchim (spicy stir-fried pork) for 12K, dak muchim (spicy chicken, also for 12K), and a smaller bindaeddeok for 4K.

Soju 3K, beer 4K, makgeolli 3K, and soft drinks are 1.5K.

It's a homely, homely interior that shows its age. Even the entrance is in one of the old market alley streets in a shabby looking building. Go up the flight of stairs and you'll see the little griddle station where the bindaeddeok are made fresh to order- right at the top of the stairs, no less.

Inside is just as plain as its outside with tables to seat about 20 or so and a sort of open kitchen. 

As I said, the bindaedeok is quite the cut in price compared to regular bindaeddeoks around the traditional markets which go for double or more the 4K price. But the price is relative as the bindaeddeok at Buwon Myeonok is smaller and thinner than the regular variety. 

Still it's fried to order and will hit the spot for any bindaeddeok lovers for a little side to your naengmyeon.

On top of the simple interior, the side is also simple- pickled radish. They serve yooksoo for drinking and a dipping sauce if you order the bindaeddeok.

And the two naengmyeons.

The bibim naengmyeon appears a little under seasoned initially but it's actually very solid. Not too spicy or pungent a little on the sweeter side but a nice seasoning that should please just about everyone.

The mul naengmyeon initially seems like any other old school naengmyeon joints around but, when observed in detail, you'll start to notice a few major differences.

Let's start with the topping. Besides the fact that Buwon Myeonok is one of the few naengmyeon places to chop their hard boiled egg horizontally, the boiled meat slice you'll notice on top is not beef, but pork.

And then see that bits of white speckles bobbing on top? That's pork fat. Instead of beef, Buwon Myeonok gets its stock from pork. There's a heavier layer that's added to the flavors from the pork which sounds like it wouldn't work but it does. The richness of the fat from the stock and from the pork slice ends up "sticking" the flavors of the mul naengmyeon inside your mouth. I suppose it's the same reason so many choose to finish a samgyeopsal (pork belly barbecue) meal with the cold noodles at the barbecue joints because the contracts between heavy and light is bridged together by the remnant fats left in the mouth.

The broth at Buwon Myeonok is also sweeter than, say, Pyongyang-style naengmyeon. They apparently add onion skin to the broth making to give it a natural sweet edge.

Then there's the noodles itself. Decidedly thinner, it also uses only about 60% buckwheat so the buckwheat ratio is much less. Buckwheat fans may be disappointed but for those preferring a smoother chew, they'll appreciate how it goes over better.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Essentially the naengmyeon at Buwon Myeonok is an interesting hybrid of sorts that doesn't fall strictly into a typical naengmyeon style. For the purists, especially Pyongyang-style enthusiasts, the nonconforming details of Buwon Myeonok- sweeter broth, thinner noodles, and pork used- can be deal breakers.

But on an objective stand point, at its price and taste, it's a great-valued naengmyeon that should appeal to most tastes.

2nd Floor, 41-6, Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
41-6, 23, Ipjeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea

Come out exit 5 of Hwoehyeon station and turn right on Namdaemun Sijanggil 4. Turn right on the first alley and walk about 20 meters and you'll see the sign and stairs for Buwon Myeonok on your right.




Soju, makgeolli available.

Closed on the first and third Sunday of every month.