In summertime, my thoughts turn to chilled noodles. When the outdoors turn oppressive and just walking by the stove is enough to cause a sweat, it’s easier to fantasize about creamy Hawaiian macaroni salads, or Mediterranean pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, parsley, and feta.
But the best cold noodles of all are found in Korean cuisine. And Carrollton has not one but two brand-new places to try them. Both are casual self-service spots in the same sprawling shopping center as H Mart. You order at the counter, take a pager, and clear your own table when finished.
The biggest difference between the two newcomers is in atmosphere. Hampyong Noodle, across a small side lot from the Dallas Table Tennis Club, has the bustling look of a cafeteria, while Homung Cold Noodle is more relaxing, with its soft music, white walls, and minimalist art. Homung, by the way, occupies the space recently vacated by the wonderful and dearly missed Kimchi Stylish Korean Kitchen.
Both spots specialize in naengmyun, a type of ultra-thin noodle that is usually made from buckwheat. It’s grayish in color and sticks together in bundles. (Homung and Hampyong spell the dish differently, too; naengmyeon is the same food.) Every noodle bowl comes with a big pair of scissors. If you’ve never attacked your noodles with scissors before, here’s an efficient method: cut straight across the bowl, as if you were slicing a pizza.
At both restaurants, you’ll have to decide whether you’d like your noodles in a beef broth, or a spicy sauce. There are also spicy versions topped with slices of fish.
At Hampyong Noodle, I went spicy and stirred together my bowl of noodles, red pepper paste, and thinly sliced cucumbers and radish. It’s a refreshing, only gently spicy bowl, and the crunch of the vegetables is a delightful bonus. I skipped the hard-boiled egg on top, which looked like it had been cooked for 15 minutes.
Naturally, I had to try Homung Cold Noodle, too. Here the spicy pepper sauce is a little bit spicier and less sweet, which makes it more to my liking. The egg was hard-boiled more properly, too, and I liked the mellow environment inside. I learned the hard way, however, that the marinated skate fish topping is an acquired taste that I have yet to acquire. Not their fault, and I am excited to go back for another of the specialty bowls.
The restaurants offer slightly different bonuses: Homung provides little bowls of thinly-sliced pickled radish, and at Hampyong, a manager handed out cups of hot beef bone broth to sip while customers waited.
A bowl of noodles by itself isn’t quite a full meal, which is where appetizers and combos come in. You can make your meal a combo at Hampyong by adding a tray of grilled meat, or grab an appetizer of mung bean pancakes.
Unfortunately, I goofed. Reader and culinary informant Ben Min had sent me a message about Hampyong Noodle, telling me that the noodles and pancakes are “a winning combo.” But in the moment, up at the cash register, I forgot and went with a meat combo. The meat was just fine. It was normal. I confessed my error to Ben after my food arrived, and he wrote back, “Get the pancakes!!!” Let this be a lesson to you, readers.
Ben tells me that naengmyun was not originally a summertime dish at all. The beef broth required for the unspicy version would have gone bad quickly in hot weather; it was only the arrival of MSG from Japan to Korea that allowed the dish to be stored and served in the heat. Ben’s source on this is the Netflix documentary series Cold Noodle Rhapsody, part of a Korean-language food franchise that also encompasses Pork Belly Rhapsody and Hanwoo Rhapsody (about Korea’s native beef cattle).
I haven’t watched the shows yet, but they are at the top of my summer watchlist. (Severance, Barry, Taskmaster, Cold Noodle Rhapsody. Sounds about right.) Here’s a recommendation: watch Cold Noodle Rhapsody and then head up to Carrollton to satisfy the ensuing craving. Oh, and get the pancakes.
One more note before we go. Bibim naengmyun is not the only form of cold Korean noodle available around Dallas. Ajumma Kimbob Deli on Royal Lane serves jjolmyun, which employs a thicker, very chewy noodle, coated in a red pepper sauce that is significantly spicier than either Hampyong’s or Homung’s. Around the sides of the plate they arrange piles of veggies so that you can stir in as few or as many as you like. Just something to think about as the summer months stretch onward and you grow ever more desirous of chilled carbs.
Hampyong Noodle, 2625 Old Denton Rd., Ste. 464, Carrollton
Homung Cold Noodle, 2625 Old Denton Rd., Ste. 320, Carrollton