Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summertime Delicacy

Summertime + NYC = hot and steamy; no doubt about it. Good news for air-conditioner vendors. Bad news for the rest of us. The first heat wave of the summer, last week, sold plenty of A/C's. I know, because everywhereI looked they were sold out: BJs, Target, Circuit City, even the Rite Aid on Northern Blvd and Parsons.

Not to fear: the best way to cool down without an A/C is with an ice-cold bowl of Korean "cold noodles," aka Naeng-Myun (냉면). It generally comes in two varieties: Mul-Naeng-Myun (w/ broth) and Bi-bim-Naeng-myun (w/out broth, typically more spicy). Now, cold noodles is a dish that upon first instinct might not sound that appealing. In fact, for many people, including myself, it's an acquired taste. But after getting over the fact that you're eating noodles that are cold , you finally begin to appreciate the delicate flavor of the broth or of the finely mixed spices. Afterall, many western-style macaroni salads are noodles that are eaten cold, are they not?

If your interested in experiencing the next best thing to jumping into a cool swimming pool, check out your nearest Korean restaurant. Many restaurants serve it, especially in the summer, and some of them even specialize in it. The restaurant mentioned in my last post (New Favorite) offers up a pretty decent bowl of cold noodles. However, I've have eaten a lot of naeng myun and there's a place that just happens to be one of my favorites for this dish -- it's one of their specialties. It's called Il-bok Restaurant (일복식당) and it's located at 136-77 41st ave near Union St. They have good prices and large portions of a slightly refined version of mul-naeng-myun. Traditionally, the buck-weat noodles are served with various garnishes in the broth, most notably a thin slice of Korean pear. At Il-Bok however, they substitute the pear for a slice of apple, and add a hefty pinch red pepper to give it spice you won't find else where.

Long story short, Il-Bok Restaurant has long become a favorite place to grab the cooling dish and it's highly recommended to anyone who's curious to try Korean cold noodles and even to those who are very familiar with the dish, as Il-Bok serves it up with particularly delicious and cooling twist.

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Here's another review of Il-Bok over at the Chowhound blog by designerboy01.
He mentions cold noodles, but unfortunately hasn't tried/reviewed them yet. Also, to clarify, in his review he refers to Il-Bok as being a Chinese restaurant, which technically it is (and it isn't). See, it's run by Korean-Chinese, aka Yonbyon (연변), people who are ethnically Korean from China. The sign is written in Korean, English and Chinese with a funny cartoon-like chef on it. In fact, the eastern end of 41st Ave. approaching Union St. comprises quite a few business that are owned/operated by Yonbyon.

And here's a description of Naeng Myun over at the Gothamist (although, it's reviewing a different restaurant).

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