47 naengMyeon: icy, spicy BucKwheaT noodles wiTh hoT sauce Dong-a Naengmyeon in Hannam-dong is known for its incendiary noodles and a no-bullshit approach: drab blue interior, cafeteria-style seating, order at the counter, pay before eating. Only three items are on the menu — mul naengmyeon (cold wheat noodles), bibim naengmyeon (cold mixed noodles) and dumplings. The level of spiciness must be specified upon ordering, so of course we grabbed one of each item on the menu at maximum intensity. Ian: Having had my ass kicked here before, I went for the slightly more sane mul naengmyeon, since some of the spice can be left behind in the liquid. During my pre- vious visit I’d seen ajeossis giving up mid-meal, their egos crushed and vanquished, but although both of us were sweaty and red-faced by the end, it wasn’t as wicked this Maeun galBi-JJiM: spicy Beef shorT-riB sTew (a.K.a. The worsT decision ever) For a concoction of beef short-ribs, glass noodles and a dangerous red sauce, we visited the Hyewha location of Maeundae, an Apgu- jeong-based chain. The waiter was extremely reluctant to let us order the spiciest version, but we did. As we sat listening to pitiful K-pop tunes and took in the simple concrete interior, we were ignorant of our impending doom. Ian: Oh, sweet Jesus; this was brutal. From the first bite, my mouth and throat burned with the strength of a thousand suns. Sweat and tears were flowing, the fount turned wide open. I voiced cowardly thoughts of meal-abandonment. All conversation was ground to a halt as I held chilly bottles of soju to my neck, desperate for any respite. The meat was ten- der and slow-cooked, but as the broth boiled down, the clear noodles absorbed what I dubbed “The Devil’s Brine.” I saw that rat-bastard of a waiter chuckling from behind the partition and was reminded of an old Korean proverb: “Revenge is a dish best served spicy as fuck.” Matt: At first we tried to make light of the situation, but soon the mood turned grim and the conversation died down. A chill swept over me and I had to put on my jacket. My stomach began to ache. My tongue felt like it was shot full of novocaine. This was the only food that put me into a state of physical distress. We managed to finish the meat, but left a pile of glass noodles at the bottom of the pot. As if to cheer us up, the waiter told us afterward that we’d handled it better than the locals, and through our haze we realized we’d done it: spiciest dish in Seoul, found. Now to crawl home. MORE INfO If you want to try any of these for yourself, here’s how to fnd the restaurants we mentioned: hong-mi buldak Jongno-gu, Gwancheol-dong 13-2, (02) 733-7942 Changshin-dong Spicy Jokbal Jongno-gu, Changshin-dong 581-5, (02) 3675-9689 yeopki Ddeokbokki Jung-gu, Heungin-dong 156, (02) 2236-8592 youngest Sister Nakji Jongno-gu, Cheongjin-dong 142-3, (02) 736-0824 Dong-a Naengmyeon Yonsan-gu, Hannam-dong 657-43, (02) 796-7442 a t first it w as a t angy sPice — i didn’t get why t he guy s next t o us were beet -red — but i so o n le arned it w as a creePer, and t ha t t he oil f or t he side of bibimb aP w as a ca t al y st , r a t chet ing it uP . bot h of us broke int o a swe a t a t exact l y t he same t ime. time around — not to imply there wasn’t ample nose-blowing and piles of tissues left in our wake. The cups of meat broth accompanying were scrumplicious and shouldn’t be missed. I snuck in a drinking yogurt to soothe my palate afterwards. Matt: Ian warned me this restaurant was going to destroy us, so I was a bit surprised when I tasted the noodles and detected sweetness. Huh? Soon, though, the smoky, sinister aftertaste set in and my forehead broke out in sweat. It was a new experience to have something so spicy served cold. When Ian finished his noodles I was still chipping away at the bottom of my bowl but managed to drink all the soup without incident. It turned out to be feel-good spicy food.