3.317 Korean Janchi Guksu

Cycle 3 – Item 317

17 (Sat) November 2012

Korean Janchi Guksu


at a tent bar

-Jamsil, Songpa, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W

Project 30/30/30: 17 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)

Throughout this November, I am challenging myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days.

Korea is the 17th country.

Jamsil Olympic Gymnasium.
I’ve also seen Sting, MC Hammer, and Duran Duran at this venue – seemingly the default for international concerts.

For obvious reasons, I’d planned to hold Korea as an omega emergency reserve, but the unusual circumstances of this evening forced my hand.

Tonight, W and I went to see Norah Jones in concert.  On a street corner just outside the venue, someone had set up a tent bar.  The bill of fare comprised typical street food, as well as janchi guksu.  As mentioned before, this noodle soup is by definition served at special occasions, usually not at tent bars, which usually offer a semi-instant udon-type dish.  In any case, with alternative eating options more than a walking kilometer away, and the weather quite chilly, the customers were lining up, especially for the noodles.  Perhaps a Norah Jones concert constitutes a special occasion.  For me, it was a compelling cross-cultural juxtaposition, one that I never could’ve dreamed up.

During Cycle 2, I had eaten meat-on-a-stick at a Sting concert (see 2.006 Chicken Bar).

The guy selling glo-lites on the right was in the wrong line of business.
The dining area.
Quite ambitiously, the spread also featured chicken skewers and various deep-fried sausages.
Two large tubs of odeng, clearly the most popular item.
The odeng broth was used for the noodles, a common practice in tent bars.
The quick and easy topping process involved tossing small handfuls sliced odeng, chopped daepa, and shredded laver into the bowl, plus a scoop of red chili paste – each bowl ready within seconds.

The food was not particularly good but acceptable given the context.  Presumably to save time, the noodles themselves had been pre-cooked, requiring just the addition of broth and toppings to the bowl; unlike, say, pasta, which maintains its integrity fairly well after being cooked and left to sit for awhile, the thin somyeon (“small noodles”) used in janchi guksu take a scant 1.5 minutes to cook and go mushy real quick thereafter.  But the broth was okay.  The gimbab and sundae were also okay.   Of course, the prices were concomitant with the opportunistic nature of the enterprise, everything 5,000 won a pop, even the bottled water was 3,000 won.  We weren’t complaining.

Our nosebleed seats, the cheapest in the house, were 77,000 won apiece.

The show, like the food, was not particularly good and overpriced.  The setlist was a bore, the arrangements were lifeless, and the performances were mushy, like this half-assed half-length rendition of “Don’t Know Why” on solo piano – granted, she must be sick of playing this song by now, a whole 10 years after its release, but Sting has played “Roxanne” thousands of times more for nearly 35 years, and he still gives it his all every time.


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