The Brighter Half of America’s Kitchen

Noona Noodles celebrates the merge of Korean and Mexican cuisine with Milagro Tequila

Tequila is what I crave. Smooth, with a sharp hit. You’d find me nursing a shot, out and about town to what feels like a lifetime ago when overbooked nights out were the standard. Reposado  on the rocks. Añejos  room temperature with a zest. Mezcal tempting me for a smoke. Maybe tequila is what I crave because my palate for taste and sensation have been groomed by Mexican chefs. In a Korean kitchen of spice, peppers, salt, soups and stews, Victor, Caesar and Gonzalo have been standing by my mother’s side in our kitchen for over twenty years of my life.

Tequila Ramen at Noona Noodles
Stella and her mom, Byung Sul Kim wear dresses Bottega Veneta

“Yo recuerdo cuando era chiquita y se escondia atres de su mama.” is what Caesar will tell you as you enter the kitchen. Stainless steel walls and blue lights. The fast and steady rhythm of knives sharpening before the dinner rush. Meats butchered and pounded to tenderize. Remedies of ginseng, dates and garlic simmer and bounce against the boil. This is home. It’s where Victor was caught making out with his wife in the walk-fridge twenty years ago. Where Caesar greets me with “Stellita” while chopping ingredients for our kimchi, and where Gonzalo waves in fire from the stove with his bare hands. 

From left to right: Victor Martinez wears Gucci neck scarf, Gonzalo Ruiz wears Ralph Lauren neck scarf, Byung Sul Kim wears dress Bottega Veneta, Cesar Espinoza wears neck scarf Casablance, Francisco Rodriguez wears neck scarf Gucci. All shirts worn are Ralph Lauren.

Although our family built a history of Korean food in New York, it was time to find a new expression of who we are today. Food in New York would not be what we take for granted without the unsung heroes in the back of the house. Our family would not be complete without Mis Tios. To celebrate my Mexican uncles as one of the pillars of Noona Noodles, we created the Tequila Ramen. Using our iconic spicy broth with ramen as a base, it wasn’t hard to find ingredients that drew parallels from both cultures. The stringy beef often found in Korean stews like Yook Gae Jang isn’t so far from the texture of birria meats originating from Jalisco, Mexico. A magical place where the sweetest blue agave is harvested for Milagro Tequila. A generous shot in the soup amplifies the heat as the sparkle is paired with cilantro and slices of lime.

Jaime wears Giorgio Armani waistcoat, blazer and trousers

A few weeks ago, The Tequila Guy, Jaime Salas, came by Noona Noodles to check out our Tequila Ramen to understand what the hype was about. And to be honest, we were all pretty nervous to share our dish with him. A Tequila Expert who holds a certification given by Academia Mexicana de Vino, Jaime also holds a Master Mezcalier accreditation given by Comercam, which is the government entity in Mexico that regulates mezcal production and certification. Will our ramen resonate? Will he approve? Will our heartfelt playfulness be met with a head-scratching look of confusion?

Kyara wears Chanel

When the moment arrived, we were greeted with a smile as big as his heart. Jaime offered to create a cocktail to pair with our Ramen aptly named “The Brighter Half”. An effervescent tequila cocktail with cucumbers, ginger, lime with a dash of sesame seed oil to round out the flavors and offset the heat of the noodles. Although I grew up where the spice is heavy and the kitchen is hot, our picante might be a little too strong for yours. So when you swing by the shop and meet our new front-of-house darling, Kyara – just tell her “poco picante” and we’ll know exactly what you mean. In real life or online, try a taste of the Tequila Ramen and wash it down with “The Brighter Half”. 


The Brighter Half 

Created by Milagro National Ambassador Jaime Salas

  • 1.5 Parts Milagro Silver
  • ¾ Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 Part Cucumber & Ginger Syrup
  • 1 Pinch Kosher Salt  
  • 1 dash Toasted Sesame Oil 
  • 4 Parts Chilled Club Soda 


Method: Pour all ingredients, except club soda, into a Boston shaker. Add ice and shake until cold. Pour over fresh ice into a highball glass and top with chilled club soda. Garnish with half of a lime wheel and enjoy. 


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