Cold eats: mul naengmyeon

This post highlights one of the dishes I talked about last weekend on public radio’s Splendid Table. The theme was cold eats in Los Angeles and one of the dishes I highlighted is the Korean dish called mul naengmyeon [pronouncer: mool nay-ng-me-yuhn]. It’s basically buckwheat noodles in a cold beef broth soup with a tangy flavor (vinegar and a little sugar) served with julienned cucumbers, sliced beef, sliced Asian pear, and a hard boiled egg.

It’s a light (but filling) noodle dish that’s perfect for the summer. A lot of people may not realize this but mul naengmyeon’s origin is actually from North Korea and it became popular after the Korean War. The noodles are intentionally long because it represents long life but most restaurants will cut the noodles so it’s easier to eat. If you go to a mul naengmyeon restaurant, don’t be surprised by all the slurping noises because that’s the only (and best!) way to eat the dish and show your appreciation for the food.

The mul naengmyeon in this post is from Chosun Galbi in Koreatown. They serve banchan (Korean side dishes) with the noodles and the best part is they have a nice outdoor patio where you can dine – perfect for a summer afternoon lunch.

I think the best mul naengmyeon I had was in Seoul last year. Why? The broth. It was the perfect balance of savory, tangy, and sweet. I’ll try to post it later so you can compare.

Note: If you like spicy dishes, there’s also another variety of naengmyeon called bibim naengmyeon which is served in a red hot spicy dressing instead of a broth.

Shave me off a piece of that… shave ice!

The summer months make me crave shave ice… not shaved ice. I’m talking SHAVE ice. It’s the fine icy treat that President Obama indulges in when he visits Hawaii. In Los Angeles, we have Get Shaved which is as close as it gets to the real deal in Hawaii but their store is all the way in North Hollywood and their food truck is hard to track down because it covers a big area (ahem… @getshaved, please come to downtown LA during the weekday!!).

When I was in Hawaii this spring, I made a pilgrimage to Matsumoto General Store that specializes in this fluffy refreshing goodie. Check out my video of my experience and why shave ice isn’t your everyday snow cone. By the way, this is the first video I’ve posted and I’m on the fence if this is going to be a regular feature. I still need to work on my Final Cut skills. But please leave a comment if you want more videos (or not).

I mention li hing mui in this video and you’re probably wondering… exactly what is it? Well, it’s a salty plum powder. I know your taste buds just turned when I said that. The flavor is a nice rounded taste of salty and sweet that goes well with the sweet flavors of the shave ice. Lots of Hawaiians actually dip their fruit (like pineapples) and sometimes gummy bears in this reddish-orange colored powder. My roommate, Isabella, was the one who told me about the li hing mui and my life hasn’t been the same since then.

Here’s a closer look at Matsumoto’s.

Even though Matsumoto’s is known for their shave ice, they really are a general store. They sell candy, food, trinkets, and t-shirts.

Here’s a close-up photo of my friend’s shave ice — she got the Matsumoto special which is coconut, lemon, and pineapple.

Let me know if you want more video and also if you have suggestions on the best shave ice outside of Hawaii… especially if it’s in Southern California.