Noodles in beef broth was one interesting variation of korean noodles dish that I came across in Seoul. In Daejeon, where the traditional kalguksu noodles is famous for, the broth is often seafood or vegetable-based. Dried anchovies or whole clams are boiled to release the savory flavour of the soup. However, in the old part of Seoul where seollengtang, or beef bone soup, has been widely consumed, it is no coincidence that here the noodles are served in same type of beef broth.
The 40 year-old noodles place Gomguksijib (곰국시집) is near the rear entrance of Seoul City Hall building. For someone who was born and raised in the city of Daejeon, a transportation hub of South Korea that is also famous for their simple noodles soups, I was surprised that I have never heard of the term guksi before. Apparently, it is a Gyeongsang-do provincial dialect of guksu, simply meaning “noodles”. In Daejeon, we called the thick flour noodles “kalguksu” as the noodles are made by slicing the dough with a knife (kal). Here in old neighbourhoods of Seoul, the kalguksu is called “guksi” as those who brought the recipe were from southern province of Gyeongsang-do.
I walked in at around 3pm on a calm Friday and the servers were just having their own lunch break. But the place was still open and operating. They led me to a hall where I can take a sit at any of the free tables. Once again, I felt fortunate to work at hours when others are working. Otherwise, I would have had to wait in long lines for insane amount of time to try these popular, historic eateries in the heart of old Seoul.
I was surprised at the price: 10,000 won for a single bowl of noodles. It felt a little overpriced for someone who is familiar with the concept of kalguksu being affordable peasant food. After all, when I looked up the restaurant on internet, the blogs from the past revealed that they had raised the price constantly. I guess it is inevitable when you are located in heart of Seoul, serving office workers from city hall and other major government offices and corporates nearby.
In the end, I was somewhat convinced when the bowl of noodles arrived before me. This bowl is frigging huge. So big that you can wash your face in it. And it is filled completely to the top. Full of noodles, savoury broth made from Hanwoo meat, and topped with slices of beef.
I was feeling a little weird after walking under the drizzle that morning. Not sick yet but felt like I could catch a cold if I’m not careful. Having that first spoon of the broth brought warmth to my body. Eventually I finished the whole thing with the exception of few strands of noodles. This was the amount that I would normally leave at least the half behind. I enjoyed the heartiness of the broth so much. Along with the flour noodles that could be a little bland on their own but went great with their kimchi. Money well spent overall.