Dueling Dishes: Battle Naengmyun!
This year's Summer Guide issue referred to Morangak's version of naengmyun as "a stainless-steel bowl of chewy noodles served in broth so cold it should have ice chips in it." And this goes without saying: these bowls seemed to have been spawned from the OC Fair's Ice Museum. Eat until your organs are frostbitten, then enjoy the sun's rays as they tickle your spine and spread its fuzzy warmth.
Well and good? Not quite--there are flaws. Flaws that might be restored by Gombo Wang, a smaller Cerritos eatery whose sole specialty is naengmyun. See which restaurant has the better tasting (and priced) nirvana-in-a-dish, after the jump.
|Naengmyun from Gombo Wang, with the yooksoo at bottom right|
When ordering naengmyun, yooksoo, or warm broth, is served first along with the side dishes. Every restaurant has its own broth recipe which differs slightly, but the broth's purpose is to counterbalance the cold and zest of naengmyun. Sure, Morangak might leave an entire steel pot of their yooksoo on the table, but the flavor is much too mild and watery. Gombo Wang gets it right with a peppery yooksoo full in taste. Winner: Gombo Wang.
For those of you who haven't tried naengmyun before, stir the noodles and add some vinegar and hot mustard to your liking. Both restaurants stack beef brisket slices, half an egg, cucumber, pear, and spicy radish atop their noodles. The difference? Morangak just gives you a lot more. As for the dish's buckwheat (and thus healthy) noodles, Gombo Wang's consists of less buckwheat and more potato starch, which means the noodles are paler and less chewy. Morangak's noodles are a nice lavender from the buckwheat. Make sure to lift up that stainless steel sucker and chug away at the icy broth like a boss. Winner: Morangak.
Final Verdict: Morangak
Even with the shikhae (sweetened rice drink) Gombo Wang serves for dessert, Morangak easily wins. It's hard to find a substitute for fresh ingredients and quality noodles, but given Gombo Wang's more modest restaurant size, the service and quality is not far behind Morangak's. Take note, though: if you decide to try naengmyun at Morangak, it's common to order a plate of their Korean barbecue as well. But no one's complaining.