My first weekend back in Korea had me fighting to get out of bed and leave my house. I was onlydrawn out by a friend visiting from the US who I hadn’t seen in awhile and would be leaving that following Monday. I picked Woo Lae Oak for us to eat at because it kept coming up as one of the best and oldest places to get mulnamyeong in Seoul and because she hadn’t had it yet.
Woo Lae Oak’s specialty is Pyeongyang-style nameyong and has been doing so since 1946. Pyeongyang-style means that this is a North Korean dish, since Pyeongyang is the capital of North Korea. Which I didn’t realize at first and which probably explains the difference in taste from what I’m use to.
Naengmyeon 랭면 is a icy cold noodle dish usually made using buckwheat noodles. Depending on the shop you’ll be brought or have at your table a type of vinegar and mustard which will add to the flavor of the broth. What I’m use to is finding radish sometimes pickled, cucumber toasted sesame seeds and egg hiding amongst the noodles and chunks of ice. With the Naengmyeon I got at Woo Lae Oak the first noticeable difference was absolutely no ice. While it was still cool in broth it wasn’t icy cold, there were also thin slices of beef to go with it’s beef stock, a bitter tasting pickled cabbage, cucumber, and sweet pear mixed in. At the table was some vinegar, chili paste, and mildly spicy mustard to add as much as you want.
I enjoyed this naengmyeong but it’s by far not my favorite. I really enjoy a slushie style soup broth with the noodles and additional cucumber, pickled radish and hard boiled egg. But I did really like the addition of pears that they add to Woo Lae Oak’s naengmyeong. Didn’t expect that.
Woo Lae Oak was fun to check out and is two stories and vastly popular. Full of regulars who absolutely love the taste and reminders of home cooked North Korean meals. It has a fancy atmosphere and we were asked to pay first before our food was brought out. We were also a bigger group than I had expected, 6 of us in total. While the “House of Many Returns” may not be my favorite naengmyeon it’s definitely a place to check out if you want to try traditional North Korean food. They also do bbq and hot stews.
Woo Lae Oak also has shops up in the USA and two in Seoul.