Na Deul Mok
Na Deul Mok, a newish restaurant near Christie station is Korean for "the bend in the road before a long trip". It also loosely translates to "the buckwheat noodle place you've been longing for".
A former pickle addict, I came to Korea's vinegar-soaked buckwheat noodles eagerly. In Canada, downing a jar of pickle juice is an invitation for pucker-faced judgment (not to mention a tummy ache). But in Korea, pickle-juice drinkers and lemon-suckers can get their acid on with Mul Nang Myun: buckwheat noodles bathed in vinegar broth, garnished with slices of pickled daikon, hard boiled egg and roast beef. Best of all, sour-face fans can appreciate the dish sans judgment...mostly.
Every country has its own culture-specific food rules, and Korea is no exception. Served with a half-frozen, slushy daikon broth, Mul Nang Myun is a summer dish. Ordering the buckwheat noodles in vinegar broth after
Chusok is the Korean culinary equivalent of wearing white after Labour Day: it simply isn't done.
Now, I consider myself something of a rebel. I stick it to the man any way I can: wearing mismatched socks, eating spaghetti breakfasts, drinking pickle juice. I write emails in lower case, and follow Friday night yoga with beer and wings. So I surprised myself when on this cool spring day, I passed on my beloved Mul Nang Myun, ordering the Hoe Nang Myun instead. Thing is, I was cold.
Like Mul Nang Myun, Hoe Nang Myun includes a coil of cold buckwheat noodles, and is served with gochuchang and hot mustard for self spicing. Both dishes come with slices of daikon and a boiled egg. While Mul Nang Myun is served in cold broth, Hoe Nang Myun has just enough sauce to moisten the noodles. "Hoe" (pronounced "hway") means raw fish, and that's what this dish is topped with, spicy-marinated ropes of skate. Along with traditional toppings, Na Deul Mok adds crisp contrast to chewy house-made noodles by including thin strips of juicy Asian pear. And, acid lovers rejoice! Hoe Nang Myun also comes with vinegar for seasoning.
One unfortunate rule of Korean cuisine dictates Nang Myun dishes cost more than regular lunches, and be served with fewer side dishes. Na Deul Mok is no exception in this tradition, serving their delicious $9.99 noodles with scant two banchan: Korean pancake and razor thin daikon slices. This is a real shame, because previous trips to Na Deul Mok have led me to expect an endless parade of delicious side dishes, including the best kimchi I've tasted this side of the Pacific.
According to Chang Sun Young, author of A Korean Mother's Cooking Notes, "Grown ups tend to put [kimchi] in the fridge because they cannot tolerate sour kimchi, whereas young people only like it when it is sour". I must be a baby in kimchi-years then, because I like my kimchi like a spoiled prom queen: young and sour. Even in Korea, kimchi like Na Deul Mok's is a special find, so to get it in Toronto, homemade and MSG-free, is a real delight.
Actually, this whole place is a real delight. Despite the low banchan count, my noodles were filling and delicious. Every other dish I've tried here has been fresh, authentic and accompanied by mounds of side dishes. Friendly staff,
happy to tailor dishes for vegetarian patrons , also add to the experience.
Na Deul Mok surpasses its name. Not just a worthy fueling stop before a long trip, eating at Na Deul Mok is a delicious adventure itself.
Open 11:30am - 11:00pm, Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays.