17 (Sun) July 2011
Jaengban Nakji Jjajang Myeon
at Hong Kong
-Namyangjum, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ, various families from DJ’s daycare
Hong Kong is a Korean-Chinese restaurant. Specializes in hand-made noodles, along with the standard Korean-Chinese menu. No apparent relation to Hong Kong or Cantonese cuisine.
Restaurants that make noodles by hand are increasingly rare in the city, one theory being that the higher rents and greater volume of customers in urban locations compel quicker turnaround, whereas hand-made noodles are extremely time-consuming to make. Such places can now be found here and there on the city periphery, always with a prominent sign advertising “son (hand) jjajang” or “suta myeon” (hand hit noodles).”
Hand-made noodles, of course, like hand-made pastas or pizzas or breads, are a cut above their machine-pressed counterparts. For these noodles, the dough is pulled into one long strand and then folded in half to make two and then again to make four and so on, the bundle occasionally slammed down on the work table (“thwack!”) to activate the glutens and intensify resilience and elasticity, until the increasingly thinner strands multiply through geometric progression. Not only are the noodles much chewier as a result, the slightly irregular thickness of the individual strands provides much more of a pleasing contrast in texture. The noodles are primarily applied in two dishes: jjajang myeon and jjambbong.
The jaengban variation of jjajang myeon comes with all components already mixed and served on a plate – “jaengban = platter.” In addition to the noodles and black bean sauce, the dish usually includes seafood, as well as strips of garlic chives (for some reason), and a bit of heat via red chili powder.
At Hong Kong, the Jaengban Jjajang Myeon was great. The noodles were about as perfect as I’ve ever encountered. The dish featured immense chunks of squid and a whole octopus – nakji is a small species of octopus – which was cut with scissors into bite-size pieces by the server at the table, after everyone had a chance to ooh and aah. Personally, I found the sauce to be not quite right, but good enough. Listed on the menu as a double portion but, as evident in the photo, generous enough to feed at least three. 16,000 won.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)