When it’s 100 degrees at dinnertime, I want something cold in front of me.
I’d heard about mul-naengmyun, a cold Korean soup. I found it at DWJ Eastern Grill & Sushi Bar (formerly Du Won Jung Korean Restaurant).
This isn’t a chilled soup like a tomato bisque or Vichyssoise. This soup has big chunks of ice in it.
The menu description of mul-naengmyun (pronounced “mool nang min”) is “cold buckwheat noodle soup served in a special beef broth with sliced beef flank, boiled egg, pickled radish and cucumber.” It also includes sliced strawberries or watermelon.
DWJ owner Hwan Lee’s description is “cold, iced-up noodle soup.” Mul means “water,” nang means “cold,” and myung means “noodle.” So, it’s “water with ice-cold noodles.”
During hot weather, mul-naengmyun is “just one of those things that kind of helps out,” Lee said.
The soup is very popular in Korea, Lee said. Korea is surrounded by three seas, so it’s very humid in the summer, he said.
One hundred years or so ago, mul-naengmyun was served only to the royal family. Over time, the masses began enjoying it.
They cook the broth for five or six hours at DWJ and then chill it in the freezer. The next day, they crush up the frozen mixture and put it in the refrigerator. That’s why you get chunks of ice in your soup. It’s not just the ice that quells the heat.
“Buckwheat cools down the temperature in your body,” Lee said. “That’s how we understand it in Asia.”
They also add “a squeezed- up lemon” to the broth. “Lemon cools you down. Vitamin C,” Lee said.
Mul-naengmyun is served with containers of hot mustard and vinegar. You can add those if you want a spicy broth. Lee prefers his without the spice.
You have your choice of chopsticks, fork or spoon, each of which depends on how you want to eat the soup. I used the spoon because I wanted to drink the icy broth, which is a bit sweet. Lee uses a sweetener in the soup, but that’s a secret ingredient. The fork or chopsticks are for people who want to eat more noodles.
Another utensil that comes in handy is a pair of scissors. Before you dive in, Lee cuts the noodles, which are long.
They don’t serve mul-naengmyun with side dishes in Korea, but at DWJ you do get dish of kimchi (fermented cabbage), stir-fried mushrooms and shredded radish and pickles.
If you want basically the same dish, but not the broth, Lee said to try another cold noodle dish: bibim-naengmyun. I tried that, too. It includes a spicy red chili sauce, so it’s got a kick to it.
Lee brings his fellow golfers to the restaurant after their game and introduces them to mul-naengmyun. He’ll say, “It’s ice cold noodle soup. You should try it.”
They do. And then they say, “I’m so cold.”
DWJ Eastern Grill & Sushi Bar, 3750 Hacks Cross Road, Suite 101; 746-8057.