Published at 13th of November 2020 07:35:05 AM
“Well, it’s my treat for you as my alumni, but I wanted to ask you something . I hear you have a perfect palate . I wonder how you can review this noodle dish . As you know, this kind of chance for a tremendous gourmet like you to review it doesn’t come along often . Maybe this might be the last opportunity…”
When he blurred at the end, his face looked gloomy for a moment . But Min-joon didn’t care much . When he mentioned ‘last,’ Min-sok might think of the fact that Min-joon would return to America soon .
Min-joon nodded with a smile then said, “Okay, let me try then . Kaya, say thanks to him . It’s a free dish for us . ”
“Ah, thank you . ”
“You’re welcome, Kaya . Please enjoy!”
Then Min-sok left the place, laughing cheerfully .
Min-joon looked back at the dishes quietly . The cooking score for the boiled beef was 6 and that of the boiled pork slices was 8 . With a hesitant look, she looked over the table here and there .
“I think this is the problem of Korean restaurants . I don’t know what to eat first . I wish I had some sort of eating guideline,” she grumbled .
“You can eat whatever you want . I think you have a choice disorder . ”
“Why don’t you recommend me?”
“In this case, it’s better to eat hot food first . Start with boiled beef, boiled pork slices, then cold noodles . Try in that order . ”
Having said that, he picked up the boiled beef first . Was it boiled regardless of the part of the meat? Beef tongue was also included in the sliced parts . He carefully picked one slice . Since the meat was braised soft, it could be crushed when he picked it up hard . The moment when he slightly soaked the meat in a sauce mixed with mustard and soy sauce and put it in his mouth, he smiled before he knew it .
“It’s delicious . ”
It was so delicious that he didn’t have to say anymore . He could feel the good quality of the meat when it got crushed like cream in his mouth . The flavor of the meat itself, which melted in no time, was so strong that even without adding mustard soy sauce to it, it’s already a spice and sauce that was more stimulating than anything else . A smile was on his face .
However, Kaya could not sympathize with his feelings . That was natural . She was now struggling to grab the chopsticks properly . It would be difficult for her to pick hard stuff with the chopsticks, but the boiled beef was too soft for her to pick up . After all, she looked at him and was embarrassed .
“Oh my God, I can’t pick it up . ”
“That’s why I told you to practice using chopsticks . ”
Clicking his tongue, he picked up the sliced beef and put it into her mouth . She also made a happy smile after trying it .
“It’s awesome . How can he bring out this taste when he has boiled it so long? Wait a minute . I can even feel the taste of pork . Did he boil them together?”
“Great, you’re right, Kaya . He used the pork and beef to make the broth then took them out for a separate dish like this . ”
“It’s delicious . You mean you eat something like this on a regular basis in Korea?”
She nodded in admiration . In fact, considering the price, boiled beef wasn’t a common dish among Koreans, but he didn’t want to break her fantasy . With a smile, he put the sliced pork in his mouth . Since the pork’s head meat was used, its chewy taste wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t too good . It was just plain .
“Well, this one is just so so . Oops, I think I was rude to say so when your alumni gave this to us for free . ”
Mumbling a bit, she was surprised to see Min-sok standing in front of the kitchen .
Grinning at her, Min-joon picked up cold noodles . He was tasting the real dish from now on .
He didn’t need to say anything before he tried it . He put up the chopsticks and put the noodles into the broth before taking them out again . In the case of regular cold noodles, it was often sensitive to the teeth when eating because the noodles were soaked with too much cold broth . But he didn’t have to worry about it when eating Pyongyang cold noodles because it didn’t taste spicy at all .
He opened his mouth for a bite . The noodles at the end of his mouth were sucked in quickly . Watching him carefully, she also tried imitating him without making any sucking noise .
And it didn’t take long for her to make a strange expression . She began to feel the lingering taste in her mouth in a tense mood . While enjoying the savory taste of the broth in her mouth, she enjoyed the strong scent of the chewy noodles . What stimulated her tongue was the taste of the broth . It looked like plain water, but it tasted like pork and beef when she actually tasted it with the noodles .
She looked at him with an embarrassed expression then asked, “What is this?”
“Pyongyang cold noodles . ”
“I’m not asking you about that . How can he bring out this kind of taste? I can’t figure it out . It tastes very strong . Then it gets bland then back to strong . It really makes me confused . I just can’t think of any proper expression to describe this kind of taste . ”
“Congrats! That kind of mysterious taste is the essence of Pyongyang cold noodles . So, if you want to enjoy it really well, you just have to focus on eating it, trying to grasp what’s on the tip of your tongue . By the way…”
Blurring a bit, Min-joon looked at the cold noodles . He expected it would taste good when he confirmed its cooking score on the system window, but he didn’t expect the owner of this restaurant would bring out such a great taste . At the same time, he himself didn’t expect he could feel such a wonderful taste in Pyongyang cold noodles .
‘Well, I don’t think this was how delicious this dish was in the past…’
In the past, he thought Pyongyang cold noodles were delicious, but he couldn’t figure out why the noodles were delicious . But now, he thought he clearly knew it . It seemed to have been made by mixing it with boiled meat, but in fact, its real taste was hidden in the appropriate proportion of boiled pork and beef, plus buckwheat noodles that gave it a chewy texture like pasta cooked with al dente .
Min-joon looked at Min-sok, who then came up to them .
“Do you need any more dishes?” Min-sok asked .
“No, thanks… I just want to thank you for such delicious noodles and side dishes . I’m glad that I can enjoy this as my first dish in Korea . It’s awesome . Kaya also said she enjoyed it so much . ”
“Kamasahamnida (Thank you) . ” Kaya said in clumsy Korean .
“Please understand her awkward pronunciation because she is American . ”
“Sure . ”
Min-sok nodded with a bright smile . Min-joon thought he looked sad rather than happy for some reason . He was about to ask Min-sok when the latter opened his mouth in a heavy voice .
“Well, I have had lots of thoughts on my mind these days, but I feel good since such famous chefs like you appreciate Pyongyang cold noodles at my restaurant . Of course, your review might be meaningless at this point . ”
“Pardon? What do you mean?”
Min-joon asked with a perplexed look .
Min-sok replied in an embarrassed voice, scratching his head .
“We will be closing soon . ”
His voice was tainted with feelings of frustration, regret, and anger at himself .
“What did you say?”
At that moment, Min-joon shouted at him, startled .
He quickly added, “I’m sorry . I was so surprised that I spoke to you rather rudely . ”
“It’s okay . I’m rather grateful to you for being so surprised . I think it means you have enjoyed my noodles, right?”
“Absolutely! It’s an awesome dish . I can’t think of a better Pyongyang cold noodles than this one…”
When Min-joon spoke in a regrettable tone, Min-sok just lowered his head without replying . Kaya cautiously said to Min-joon, “What are you talking about? You don’t look so good . ”
“Well, this restaurant is closing soon?”
“What the heck?”
She opened her eyes wide as if she could not believe what he said . She blankly looked down at Pyongyang cold noodles in front of her . She could feel the subtle scent of the cold broth, which made the noodles very sophisticated on its own .
She asked in an angry voice, “Why? Why is he closing the restaurant?”
“I don’t know . Wait a minute . Oh, I’m sorry . When I told Kaya about the upcoming closing of this restaurant, she was very surprised . It seems she really enjoyed the noodles . ”
“Well, foreigners usually find it hard to enjoy it, but I’m grateful that she enjoyed it . ”
“May I ask what happened? Why are you planning to close your restaurant?”
“Well, as you know, there is only one reason you are closing business . I can’t make money . ”
“I know some people like Pyongyang cold noodles very much, while others don’t like it at all . But given that the noodles here taste so good, I think lots of people are coming here after hearing the rumors about the awesome noodles here . Any other reason?”
“Of course, there are lots of rumors about our shop, but the problem is the rumors are bad . ”
Min-sok murmured in a heavy voice then stopped talking any further .
Min-joon didn’t want to ask anymore because it would be painful to him, like adding salt to an injury .
But Min-joon just said what he wanted to, “I have no idea what happened to this restaurant, but I really feel sorry for the closing of this shop . Who is in charge of boiling the noodles?”
“In the beginning, my mother boiled it, but since she died a year ago, my brother and I have taken over . In fact, my brother is doing most of the work . Both of us have been helping our mother since childhood . ”
The moment Min-joon heard that his mother died, something came to his mind . The taste of the noodles changed after his mother passed away, and the harsh criticism about it and bad rumors came along with it . But Min-joon didn’t think that was the decisive reason .
Min-joon looked into the noodles then thought to himself, ‘Even if the taste has changed, it’s not that bad, compared with the original taste . Rather, it tastes better to me…’
“Anyway, you are cool, Min-joon . You are the same age as me, but you have already been recognized all over the world as a great chef . I think you are perhaps the most successful alumni among my friends . Whenever I go anywhere, can I say, ‘Min-joon Cho is my friend’? Is that okay with you?”
“Of course . I will remember you and this restaurant . I would say I also had a friend named Min-sok Kim, and that friend of mine made really fantastic Pyongyang cold noodles . ”
Was he moved to tears when Min-joon said that? Min-sok’s eyes already welled in tears .
He turned his head, embarrassed, after sniffing his nose . Even when Kaya made a serious expression, Min-sok muttered in an embarrassed voice .
“I’m sorry to show you my ugly weakness like this . But I feel great since you sincerely appreciate the taste of my noodles here . ”