We hunted the city of Seoul for noodles and found a variety of interesting types, realizing Koreans have a long history of enjoying noodles. I don’t recall Seoul looking like it does, obviously it has been twenty-five years ago since I lasted visited. The city is still chaos, traffic is horrendous and everyone shortens the time of travel; a five minutes trip with traffic can be twenty minutes.
The building is three stored and on the basement they make this greyish noodle named Naengmyeon, a noodle gluten-free, simply prepared, it is delicious and can be eaten throughout the year. It is made from 99% sweet potato, some small (1%) amount of starch is added.
It all starts to make sense, the origin of noodles dates back thousands of years. Only in the west do we begin to eat that noodles in the 12 century, and finally pasta is developed from wheat and sold throughout the world.
After driving the city, we looked for a small restaurant to eat noodles, our last meal before heading to the airport. I felt like I was in New York, an Asian gentlemen standing in minus temperatures outside the restaurant on the street. He is busy, staying warm with earmuffs, he guides Mercedes and black limousines to park.
We arrived to be greeted by the owner, a proud gentlemen, he smiles and speaks “a little English” working the dinning room, and his wife is at the cash (of course). The restaurant is simple but the clientele are certainly not. It could be a high-end deli, the atmosphere is bright, and the tables clean. The only differences are this restaurant serves only hot and cold noodles.
We are seated at a table, we watch people around us wiping their mouths with tissues. After several bites the red staining spices leaves a residue behind. The guests are supplied with a bucket that sits on the floor and a tissue dispenser to keep your mouth and lips clean-it is ritual.
We order four bowls of noodles with the help of our friend and adviser on Korean cuisine, the owner of the best Korean in Tokyo. He calls ahead as the menu is not in English and orders. The dishes are each a little different, some with beef or raw fish, the common denominator is spice. The noodles look greyish, cut with scissors, something that seems weird but is commonplace in Seoul. The ingredients are mixed and depending on the type you order, you can add, vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce, sugar and what they call wasabi, a liquid that they squirt from a bottle. The experience is excellent, a dish worth 30 minutes of traveling in traffic.