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Posts Tagged ‘kalguksu’

I’ve been spending a lot of time in on the weekends, hiding out from the cold weather and trying to get things in order before we leave in less than a month (eek!), so I decided that I needed a night out with one of my best friends here in Korea, Chansong, and one of her friends from church!

We met in Cheonbukdae to chat and exercise our chopstick skills over a meal of shabu-shabu at a local Japanese food restaurant. Shabu-shabu refers to thinly sliced beef dipped briefly in boiling broth, then enjoyed with vegetables that also simmer in the same pot. The food trend, which began in Osaka, Japan has quickly caught on all around Asia and has taken on variations in each country.

In Korea, it is customary to serve the beef with a plate of vegetables (ours included three kinds of mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, squash, and a single mandu as well), with a tiny nest of fresh noodles to one side, and a small bowl filled with rice, nori and an egg to make jook at the end of the meal.

To begin, the girls and I dropped our veggies in our personal pots as soon as the broth began to simmer. While they bubbled, we dug into a complimentary salad of crisp cabbage, a ripe, juicy orange and tangy kiwi dressing. Yum! I practically licked the bowl clean. Once the vegetables began to soften, we began dunking our meat our pots and enjoying the combination of the produce and the beef.

I traded Chansong some of my mushrooms for her squash, since she isn’t a fan.

Once the meat was gobbled up (trust — it didn’t take long as I was starving after a long day of work), we plopped the fresh knife-cut noodles into the pot to make a mini version of kalguksu. After slurping up the noodles with the two delicious sauces (one was soy sauce based, the other a kind of gochujung) the broth had reduced quite a bit in the pot and it was time to drop in the rice.

The resulting dish was a creamy type of congee — a rice porridge called jook that combined diced vegetables, nori, rice and a single egg to produce a rich, satisfying bowl of comfort (especially on a night with temps in the 50s). I wasn’t able to finish all of the jook due to my bulging waistline at that point, but it was the perfect end to a perfect meal. My only regret is that I didn’t come to this restaurant sooner!

It was more than a steal at 9,000 won (under $9). I felt like I robbed the place blind!

Afterward we headed to Art and Travel for a night cap and more girl talk.

A few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to be around to celebrate Chansong’s 22nd (21st American age) birthday. Even though she has been able to drink legally in Korea for years now, I felt like this was a milestone that couldn’t go unnoticed. So, we spent a lively Saturday playing cards and drinking at Deepin.

She was a trooper and even accepted the shots of whiskey I bought her — the first ones she had! Happy times with a bestie who I will miss dearly when I go home…

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Last Sunday, the weather was gorgeous (we’re talking in the 60s), so we decided to take a trip to Hanok Village for some souvenir shopping and to eat some of the food Jeonju (and especially the traditional village) is so famous for. ^_-

After a little bit of research, we opted to try Veteran (베테랑), an unassuming restaurant that is famous for its wild sesame knife-cut noodle soup (kalguksu) and dumplings (mandu). People reportedly drive from around the country to eat at this fast-paced, jam-packed restaurant — and I can see why!

Evan and I decided to play it safe and order one of everything on the menu — and judging from the fact that the menu only had three things on it, we were sure we wouldn’t be disappointed.

We began our meal with a dish of jjolmyeon (쫄면) cold noodles slathered in cabbage, cucumber, a spicy red sauce and topped with an egg.

The noodles were chewy, and perhaps I would have liked this bibimguksu (mixed noodle) dish more if the sauce was a touch less sweet. Either way, it was nice, but completely forgettable by the time our next plate arrived.

The mandu (만두) were up next, and they were tiny explosions of flavor wrapped in thin, chewy shells. All too often I find that the wrap, especially with steamed mandu, is too thick or overpowering to enjoy the filling. Not so here! These soft dumplings were stuffed to the brim with sweet potato noodles, pork, and a multitude of spices. Even Ev, who generally doesn’t like steamed dumplings, couldn’t get enough of them. Definitely the best mandu I have had here!

The last dish to arrive was the kalguksu (칼국수) and my only regret is that this soup didn’t come first so we could actually finish it. It was so delicious. The thick, chewy noodles (cut with a knife, not spun, hence the name) had a texture reminiscent of Japanese Udon noodles, and sat in a rich, egg-laced broth. They were topped with soft egg whites, roasted seaweed, red pepper powder and wild sesame seed powder, which I had enjoyed in bibimbap before but never knew what it was!

The resulting dish was a hot, spicy, salty, comforting soup with a broth similar to egg-drop soup. The powdered sesame added another nutty flavor, elevating the umami elements of the dish. It was excellent, and very deserving of it’s country-renowned reputation.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a meal in Jeonju if it weren’t served with pickled radish rounds and a type of kimchi. This particular one is made with daikon radish (kkakdugi 배추) instead of the normal napa cabbage.

I happen to prefer kkakdugi to normal kimchi, because I enjoy the flavor but can’t get past the texture of the fermented cabbage leaves *shudder* It reminds me of wilted lettuce that has sat in the crisper too long and has begun to brown. Eek!

However, this particular kimchi was fermented in a sauce that was — wait for it — way too sweet for my liking. Note to any potential future Korea residents: if you don’t like sugar or everything with a sickeningly sweet twist, don’t bother getting on the plane. Now, I love me a Snickers Ice Cream bar every once and awhile, but the culture here has such a massive sweet tooth that they load the white stuff into everything from pizza sauce and bread to ramyeon! Enough natives… enough.

The kkakdugi at our neighborhood kimbap spot, however, is perfection. Gimme gimme.

The shopping part of the trip was considerably less successful than the eating — despite poking our heads around various shops, we didn’t find anything to satisfy our souvenir wish list. We are off to Seoul this weekend to finally visit the DMZ (yay!) and we plan on taking a look in Insadong for Korean gifts for our loved ones.

Wish me (and my Korean flag, compliments of the tourist hordes in Hanok Village) happy hunting!

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