Yuk’ssam Naengmyeon: Bibimbap bliss in South Korea
The best place to get the best of anything is at the source. You want the best pasta? Go to Italy! You’re looking for the best pad thai? Visit Thailand! The best sushi? Duh, Japan! So it’s no surprise that the best bibimbap I’ve ever eaten, I had in Korea. What is surprising is that one of my favorite spots for it is a chain. I try to stay away from chains because I feel like mom-and-pop eateries usually have more authentic and more flavorful dishes. But that was definitely not the case here.
I found Yuk’ssam Naengmyeon by accident. I was wandering the streets, taking pictures and shopping when I smelled it. The savory aroma of grilled beef wafted. So we went in. Yuk’ssam Naengmyeon is actually known for its cold noodles, but it was still a little cold out, and I wanted a hot meal. So I asked for the bibimbap and an order of mandoo (Korean dumplings).
I love bibimbap. It’s a bowl of rice topped with veggies (some are seasoned and sauteed) an egg, and (usually) pepper paste. This dish has many variations and it’s rarely the same from place to place. The vegetables are sometimes different. Some places serve it in a hot stone bowl; some don’t. Some places serve it with a raw egg; some with it over easy. Some have meat; some don’t. This one came with a thinly sliced omelette and beef on the side.
I really enjoyed this version of bibimbap. It was simple but flavorful, with great texture. The vegetables were fresh and tasty. The kimchi was spicy with a tiny bit of crunch. And the beef was really excellent (my favorite part). It was well-seasoned and tender, as beef should be. The mandoo was pretty good, too.
There are more than 30 Yuk’ssam Naengmyeon restaurants throughout South Korea. You can find one is most cities. There are several in Seoul. Next time, if it’s warmer, I’ll try the cold noodles.
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