Daegu is a city that I try to stop by whenever I travel to Busan or anywhere in Gyeongsang-do. The metropolitan city has rich history of culinary fare and it is not too difficult to spot a restaurant that has been operating for decades. Apparently, the city of Daegu has selected 10 dishes and named them “Taste of Daegu” to promote their city’s own culinary creations. And this day we were about to get a taste of one of those ten – and ironically, it’s a Daegu creation that is called “yaki udon”.
I know yaki udon. It is one of my all-time favourite dish to cook and eat. Back in Canada, I used to keep blocks of udon noodles in my freezer and whenever I need to get rid of scrap veggies I would make yaki udon. They even sold bottled yaki udon sauce at grocery stores but it was never too hard to make my own. Sometimes there would be meat and seafood added and those were good days.
So for someone who is very familiar with Japanese-style yaki udon, I was quite stunned when the plate of fiery redness finally arrived at our table. Unlike soy sauce-based noodles, this yaki udon is soaked in bloody madness. My initial impression was that this looks more like stir-fried jjampong (spicy noodles, Korean-Chinese dish) than yaki udon.
Their printed “Story of Yaki Udon” explains that the previous owner Jang had invented the dish back in 1973. Ever since then it was so popular that the city declared the dish as one of the “Taste of Daegu”. I don’t believe that there is such thing as true “original” but it is interesting to read about how they claim to be the creator of spicy yaki udon. Nevertheless, I would admit that I have never tasted something like this before. Although this may look like soup-less jjampong, it does taste quite different.
I wish they also included the story behind the name of the dish. How it came to be called “yaki udon”, exactly same as the Japanese noodles dish. I guess the inventor was inspired by the Japanese version and decided to “Koreanize” it by making it sweeter and spicy. In the end, I enjoyed the Korean yaki udon as much as I do with the Japanese one. Really, is there any limit to culinary creativity? I doubt it.