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.
Korean sausage, or sundae (순대, pronounced soon-day), is still a thing to avoid for many of my foreigner or even Korean friends alike. For these people, the unique smell or the mushy texture of stuffing wrapped in gummy intestine is just not so appealing. It took years for my sister to finally learn to enjoy the Korean delicacy but my mother still cannot stand the smell. Whatever the case is, I do not blame those who cannot make themselves to like sundae. Everyone has different tastebuds. I am just glad that I can excuse myself to travel around the country to try so many different variations of one of my favourite Korean foods.
The city of Seongnam is more known as popular residential area in Gyeonggi-do province. Geographically it is not part of Seoul but the city is conveniently connected to Gangnam and other parts of Seoul through Metro. When I hopped on a bus at Daejeon Government Complex bus terminal that was bound to Seongnam I really did not have much thought on where I wanted to go. It was simply the bus to Seongnam was what was available at the moment. Soon I got off in a town that I have never been before and started to venture off into the snow.
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.