Korean Naengmyun, Spectacularly Served in a Bowl Made of Ice


Keeping your noodles cold and refreshing

The night before last I had the pleasure of dining with Matt Rodbard, one of the critics who participated in the new Korean Restaurant Guide: New York. This publication of the Korean Food Foundation, an arm of the Korean government, is available as a free paperback (find it at the Asia Society, and other locations), or as a free phone app. In preparing the volume, three critics made anonymous visits to 80 Korean restaurants in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, and then selected 40 for this pink, lavishly-illustrated volume. When Rodbard offered to take me on an adventure to a couple of restaurants in Queens to show me some stuff I’d never eaten before, I jumped at the chance.

Naengmyun are lighter and more slippery than soba.

At a place called Tong Sam Gyup Goo Yi (162-23 Depot Road, Flushing, Queens, 877-933-3392), the front windows festooned with pigs smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign, we enjoyed an amazing bowl of the glassy noodles called naengmyun (“cold noodles”), which are made of buckwheat, something like Japanese soba only more pliable and delicate. These are always served in a chilled broth, in this case with some kimchee.

But the most interesting part is that they’re offered in a bowl of ice. “The bowl is made with a special contraption that few places have,” noted Rodbard. It certainly made eating the noodles – often downed at the conclusion of a meal – doubly festive, like embedding a bottle of vodka in ice. And you can be sure the noodles will stay cold as you serve out small portions to the diners sitting around the dome shaped griddle, which is the signature cooking method of this restaurant. From it we’d already eaten thick slices of uncured pork belly, which had been cooked with bean sprouts, kimchee, and more garlic cloves than I’d seen in one place for a long time.

Way beyond the reach of any subway line, the restaurant is steps from the Broadway stop on the Long Island Railroad.

Pork belly done on a dome is delicious.

The facade of Tong Sam utilizes a porcine theme, hinting at the menu’s obsession.