Kalguksu (칼국수) is a mainstay among traditional Korean dishes. Unlike other noodle dishes like ramen or even Italian pastas, the noodles in kalguksu are cut by hand using comically large knives. The texture can change from restaurant to restaurant, but the signature flour used in kalguksu results in softer noodles with a slight chewy texture.
And while kalguksu comes in an infinite number of varieties, chicken kalguksu (닭칼국수) is having a resurgence in Seoul and, I for one, am all for it.
For a list of our favorite traditional Korean food dishes in Korea, check out our Best Traditional Korean Foods post.
Chicken. Noodle. Soup.
Just five years ago, the most popular variation of kalguksu was the seafood variety. Our favorite restaurant would serve the dish in large bowls overflowing with clams and mussels. It was delicious, but you had to put in a bit of effort to dig through clams before getting to the hot broth and noodles underneath. Now, chicken kalguksu is the new flavor of the week and we’re all the better for it.
Unlike western-style chicken noodle soup, chicken kalguksu is less salty and the soup isn’t as oily. That means the broth has a cleaner taste with an abundance of noodles. It’s the perfect food for autumn or winter to warm the chill from your bones.
There are plenty of restaurants in Seoul that serve chicken kalguksu including Veteran Kalguksu in the Express Bus Terminal. But, we’re here today for Chungchoon Myeonga (청춘면가) in Yeonhui-dong.
Half-a-Chicken and Then Some
The noodles here are served in huge bowls with heaping helpings of meat. The beef comes with a large serving of shredded beef while the chicken comes with half a bird in the bowl. It’s incredibly satisfying to look at and take photos of before you dig in. Extra salt and pepper are available, but we were fine without.
The real surprise is the noodles. Kalguksu noodles have a defining flavor thanks to the flour used to make them, but Chyungchoon Myeonga throws sesame seeds into the mix. They add a bit of texture and change up the flavor just enough to be noticeable. Altogether, the chicken, the soup and the new take on noodles have made me a fan. One that’s looking forward to another meal.
And if that were enough, I’d be satisfied (here’s the “and then some”). Also on the menu is sweet and sour pork, an odd pairing for kalguksu. But the photos on the wall were enough to make us curious so we took the plunge. The batter here also utilizes sesame seeds and instead of a honeyed sweet and sour sauce, they have a yuja-infused sauce. The sauce is thinner than what we’re used to, but the pork came out crispy (freshly fried). It’s been a while since I’ve tried a different take on sweet and sour pork, but it works. Really, really well. The yuja is lighter on sweetness than the traditional sauce, but lighter lets you actually taste the batter which is normally overpowered by the sauce.
Chungchoon Myeonga is a small chain and you can find locations throughout Korea. We got our bite in Yeonhui-dong (quite the trek from Hongdae Station), but it was well worth the visit. Especially in cold weather, kalguksu is a welcome treat to warm your belly. I mean, soul. No, Seoul. Sigh… you know what I mean.
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