3.356 Kal Guksu


26 (Wed) December 2012

Kal Guksu


at Myeongdong Kyoja (2)

-Myeong, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W and DJ

Myeongdong Kyoja (명동 교자) is a Korean restaurant.  With just a handful of items on the menu, the eponymous house specialty is gyoja, but the star attraction is kal guksu – indeed, the restaurant was originally Myeongdong Kal Guksu.  According to the website, the restaurant was established in 1966 and shot to fame a few years later in 1969 when the government began to promote the consumption of flour products, such as kal guksu, due to rice shortages.  Since then, it has become a culinary and cultural landmark.  And now that Myeong-Dong has become a major shopping destination for tourists, the restaurant has also developed a strong international following, currently 12 on TripAdvisor’s list of favorite eateries in Seoul, 5th among Korean establishments (see tripadvisor.com’s reviews for Myeongdong Kyoja).

This is the 2nd location.
The original restaurant is about 200 m down the same alley.
Expect long lines, always.
With quick turnaround – everyone is expected to eat and get out, no lingering – the lines move fast.

Although I must’ve eaten at the restaurant several times in my life – my aunt and then later my mother both ran businesses in Myeong-dong for many years – I couldn’t recall a single instance or ever being fond of the food.  Granted, it’s been years, maybe even decades.  Most recently, just last week when a colleague visiting from overseas and staying in a hotel nearby expressed a desire to eat Korean food for lunch, this place came to mind, figuring at least that it would be safe.  But I was so impressed that I went back for dinner this evening to give me a reason to write about it.

The kal guksu was perfection.  The chicken-based broth was rich and deep in flavor, enhanced by the topping of minced chicken delectably seasoned with a soy sauce marinade.  The broth was also light in character yet ever-so-slightly thick to give it a warm velvety feel.  As described in the restaurant’s above-referenced website, along with a wealth of other interesting factoids concerning the food, that texture is the signature characteristic of jaemul guksu, a noodle soup category in which the noodles are cooked directly in the broth itself, simultaneously imparting the broth flavors into the noodles and thickening the broth from the starch of the noodles.  The knife-cut noodles were perfectly delicate and chewy.  As a bonus, the bowl included a few byeonsi mandu, savory pork dumplings folded into tiny triangles with silky thin wonton wrappers; they provided a nice diversion every other bite but weren’t really necessary given the dish’s primary strengths.  Despite all the hype, which usually makes me cynical, I couldn’t help being blown away.  And just 8,000 won.  Amazing.

Didn’t like the too-spicy/garlicky made-in-house kimchi; the complimentary steamed rice came as part of the restaurant’s declaration never to leave the customers hungry.
Kyoja (3.0): more commonly referred to as “mandu,” very good but nothing to rave about.
Pork filling.

(For more details re food, see WHAT)

(For more details re venue, see WHERE IN KOREA)

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