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.
Ever since moving to Seoul, I gained the joy of visiting old restaurants in my neighbourhood. To be more specific, old hanok restaurants. Jongno, the heart of Seoul, is a forest of modern skyscrapers but among those, in the back alleys, are the old hanok (traditional Korean architecture) structures waiting to be discovered.
I was happy to find a North Korean restaurant right across from my work, and then I was even more thrilled to learn later on that the restaurant was built by renovating the owner’s personal hanok home. Park Hye-sook, the lady who owns the place, is from Pyeongyang, the capital city of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Cold buckwheat noodles is now a popular dish in South Korea but many are aware that naengmyun is regional food originated from Pyeongyang, the capital city of North Korea. ㅡMy local friend who is in love with Pyeongyang-style naengmyun told me that I must try Wooraeok, one of the oldest restaurants and a pioneer responsible for popularizing such significant dish in Seoul.
There’s Pho in Vietnam. And Udon in Japan. In Korea, Kalguksu (칼국수, literally translated to “knife noodles”) is the simple, basic noodle soup made with flour noodles and fish or vegetable broth. You can find this humble dish all over the country but Koreans know that a version from Myeongdong district in Seoul has made itself famous over time. What I didn’t realize was that locals from Seoul also go to the streets of Seongbuk district–the old town up north of the river–to seek noodles restaurants with history.
For decades, traditional beef soup or gomtang has served citizens of Seoul especially during the cold seasons. Many beef soup places were in business near old slaughterhouses and some are keeping their tradition up to this day. Out of these historic eateries, locals pick 77-year-old Hadonggwan as a must-visit restaurant in Seoul.
Hadonggwan used to stand by Cheonggyecheon stream ever since it opened in 1939 but the government’s redevelopment plan had its building demolished in 2007. Since then the restaurant has moved to the vibrant district of Myungdong and continued its legacy. The only things on the menu is gomtang, the soup, and suyuk, the sliced steamed beef.
I spent the last weekend of January in Seoul meeting some old friends. One of them is a girl I met in Vancouver back in 2006. She came to Canada to study English and we got close naturally as we were the same age. Nine years passed and she is now a wife and a mother of a beautiful daughter. See how time flies!
My friend lives near Korea University where she works at the hospital. But we decided to meet near Seoul Station as I would have to take a train ride back to Daejeon in the afternoon. She took me to Myung-dong, the famous tourist spot for shopping and dining. I don’t think I have ever been to Myung-dong before (if I have then it must be when I was really young and had no idea where I was). So many foreigners on the streets of Myung-dong and as a Korean I have never been.. what a shame!
We had our lunch at a place called Chadolbakhin Chukumi (차돌박힌 쭈꾸미). The restaurant is known for soup-less hot pot of beef brisket and jjuggumi (쭈꾸미: small webfoot octopus) mixed with spicy sauce. I believe the dish is a modern variety of jjuggumi bokeum which is a stir-fried webfoot octopus popular on western coast.