Kim Do-hoon (editor-in-chief, Huffington Post Korea)
The ultimate cold noodle dish to me is still milmyeon, or wheat noodles, from my hometown of Busan. As a child, on Saturdays when my mother didn’t feel like cooking, she would hand me a 10,000 won note and say, “Get three servings from the milmyeon restaurant up front.” Around lunchtime on Saturdays, I naturally dream of those wheat noodles, served in pork broth, with a spoonful of spicy seasoning. It’s a pity there are barely any food milmyeon joints in Seoul. At least Gangnam Milmyeon by Gangnam Station attempts to recreate the taste my mother used to like. Even though Gangnam station and wheat noodles don’t really go together.
I am a self-proclaimed cold noodle monster—I’ve been to most of the places that sell Pyongyang-style cold noodles in Seoul but I would like to recommend a makguksu (buckwheat noodles in broth) restaurant. Makguksu uses broth from dongchimi (chilled radish water kimchi). I started going to Goseong Makguksu sometime around 2005, when my office was in Hwagok-dong and a coworker took me there for lunch. I almostdon’t want to tell other people about this place. Despite the odd location, people keep piling in, and there is always a wait. The noodles here are softer, because they use a higher percentage of buckwheat, which makes for a texture that is top-notch. Not to mention the natural aroma of the buckwheat. The dongchimi is refreshing, and more savory than sweet.
I lived in Yeouido for 10 years I lived in Yeouido for 10 years from my sophomore year of college and just moved out two years ago. To some, Yeouido just means cutthroat business and dates by the Han for fireworks and cherry blossoms, but for me, it means a plethora of good restaurants. Among them is Cheongsu Maemil—a restaurant I used to go to religiously when I craved cold noodles in the summer. Already famous among white- collar workers and notorious for long lines, it’s neither upscale nor very clean. However, it is a tasty, unassuming buckwheat noodle eatery. Their portions are big. They have dumplings on the menu and their simple side dishes never disappoint. With Yeouido just across the bridge from where I stand at the moment, I’m thinking—man, I could use a bowl of noodles.
Jung Gi-young (director of Tide Square)This kong-guksu (cold bean soup noodles) restaurant originally opened in 1962 in Jinju, in the southern regions of Korea, and relocated to Seoul in 1965. A bowl of kong-guksu at the time was 90 KRW. Now it’s priced at 9500 KRW, but there’s no end to the line of customers waiting for a cold bowl of noodles in thick bean soup in the heat of summer. Beans grown in Gangwon Province are ground to make the soup and noodles are made with the addition of bean powder. It's an incredibly simple dish, but combines perfect harmony among all its ingredients.For people who don’t like the unique scent of ground beans, you may think differently after having Jinju Hoegwan's rich and silky kong-guksu. There's a long history to kong-guksu: In Korea, beans are sometimes referred to as “meat grown from the ground.” In times when meat was scarce, a bowl of kong-guksu was a nutritious and filling meal. Though the hard times have passed, Koreans' love for this dish hasn't lessened at all. There's even one Samsung Group chairman, a known gourmet, who is said to have visited several times in the summer for these noodles.
Cho Ji-young (marketer, style H magazine)The district of Jung-gu in Seoul is the home of the oldest and best naengmyeon (noodles in icy cold broth) restaurants in Seoul. It is said that people who fled from the north after the Korean War settled near Dongdaemun Station and went on to open naengmyeon restaurants. Among them, Pyeongyang Myeonok has the most patrons. If Wooraeok is renowned for its broth, for Pyeongyang-myeonok, it’s the noodles. They polish their own fresh buckwheat and mix it with starch in a ratio of eight to two. The ratio varies slightly by the season. Their noodle servings and dumplings are larger than Pildong-myeonok’s. At lunch time, the store is overflowing with salary men, naengmyeon lovers, and tourists. So make sure you pick the right time to visit (hint: off-peak hours). Also, it might be best to avoid stopping by in July and August, if you really want to enjoy your meal. Then again, the mix of people and crowds might be an experience in its own right.
Yoo Jeongin (chef & owner of Le Projet à Table)Cold seafood noodles remind me of my time studying in Japan. Instead of Korean cold noodles in the summer, I used to eat Chinese cold noodles, which are called hiyashi chūka (Japanese-style Chinese cold noodles) in Japan. These noodles would be my energy-booster on sweltering summers during my culinary school years. The broth, refreshing with a hint of sweetness, and chewy noodles topped with braised meat or seafood, julienned vegetables, and savory peanut sauce made my summers bearable. After coming back to Korea, I really missed that hiyashi chūka and fortunately for me, I came upon Yeongyeong where they serve Chinese seafood cold noodles. Despite the different name, the taste is comparable to ones I’d had in Japan. They’re good enough to take me down memory lane, at least.