Showing posts with label korean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label korean. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Soo Rak San House of Noodles, Koreatown Los Angeles - Sujebi Korean Hand-Torn Noodles

Soo Rak San House of Noodles, Koreatown Los Angeles

The Koreans have quite a number of different dishes that are served on special occasions, seasons and holidays. I read on a Korean tourism site somewhere that bi bim bap is a typical New Year's day dish, same with rice cake soup, tteok. Or when a child is born, colorful rice cakes dusted with various bean powders are served to the family. I remember my good friend Immaeatchu telling me how she had made a beef and seaweed soup in celebration of her mom's birthday. Whatever the case, it seems like everyday is a party for Korean people. And for sure kimchi is that one dish that is celebrated everyday.

But for the not-so-glorious non-Holidays and special occasions that involve too much soju and watered-down Crown Royal, Koreans are also prepared for that department with the many 24-hour joints in Koreatown. A bowl of haejang kook (hangover soup), yu kae jang (spicy beef soup) or shul lung tang, white beef bone broth, always seems to do the trick. Although Korean soups and stews may not be glamorous enough to graze the cover of Food & Wine, they do serve their purpose in satisfying hunger and even providing bodily warmth. I recently found a place that serves Korean hand-torn noodles known as sujebi (soo-jeh-bee) and as I've heard from many of my Korean friends, a perfect dish on a rainy day. This dish may even be perfect for those "just got dumped by my girlfriend who started poking some guy who kept on poking her over Facebook" kind of day.

Sujebi refers to "noodles" that are hand-torn from a ball of dough and boiled in water. The texture is similar to Korean knife-cut noodles known as kal gook soo, but a bit more rough and chewy. In my opinion they are not as chewy as the standard rice ovalettes you see in dishes like dok pok ki and I actually prefer sujebi over those. Due to the hand-tearing technique, you'll never get the same noodle shape which adds a nice homeyness to the food – something I feel best represents Korean food.

Soo Rak San Noodle House - Koreatown, Los Angeles

I was first introduced to sujebi at the wonderful crab hot pot restaurant known as Ondal 2 (pictured above) – a delightfully ludicrous, four-part dinner that almost always requires a gurney to exit the restaurant. It is Part Three of the dinner and quite fun to watch. For those that have never been to Ondal 2, a waitress unravels a ball of dough out of saran wrap and rips pieces of "noodles" into the boiling crab soup. And they are tasty.

At Soo Rak San Noodle House, their specialties are sujebi and kal gook soo, with at least 5-6 versions of each for you to choose from. When I walked in, it was quite clear that I should stick to the sujebi based on the number of diners eating it as well.

Soo Rak San Noodle House - Koreatown, Los Angeles

For only $7.99, you are served quite a large portion of sujebi in a typical clay/stone pot, to maintain the hot temperature of the dish. The seafood sujebi came with shrimp, a piece of crab body and legs, clams and mussels. The sujebi broth consists of dried anchovies, seafood and kelp and really has a nice umami taste – more than your typical bowl of kal gook soo. The waitress came with the bowl and I parted the fruits de mer to the side... ah, there you are, my little gems of starch. There were two colored sujebi noodles: white and green. Turns out the green is not made of vegetable (squash noodles) like the ones served at LA 1080 Noodle House on Western. Instead, the chef uses chlorella powder to enrich with vitamins and enhance the color. Chlorella, not to be misread as cholera, is a type of green algae first incorporated into food to curb global hunger during the 1940s. Due to its high protein properties, it was used heavily in Korea during the war, when nutritious food was hard to come by. Don't you love it when you're eating something delicious AND nutritious? Double win.

Soo Rak San Noodle House - Koreatown, Los Angeles

I devoured the sujebi faster than I ate the seafood. In fact, the seafood was getting in my way. If you can handle the heat, this is one dish you want to eat when its spicy – so good. Compared to the other sujebi places I've eaten at – Ondal 2 and Olympic Noodle, this definitely holds up. But they are all pretty equal in my opinion. I don't think that Ondal 2 serves them separate from the crab hot pot. I have to go back and check out the kal gook soo soup noodles to make a better assessment. For now, both Soo Rak San and Olympic Noodle will do you just fine if you are interested in trying sujebi.

Soo Rak San Noodle House - Koreatown, Los Angeles

I also ordered a basket of their steamed dumplings and they were definitely tasty. I think I still prefer the dumplings over at Olympic Noodle and Myung Dong Kyoja over these. My only problem with these steamed dumplings is that they got dried out like a Hollywood celebrity's botoxed face. So you have to eat these quite fast. Flavor is there though.

Thanks for reading.

Soo Rak San Noodle House
4003 Wilshire Blvd. #1
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 389-2818
Everyday 10 am - 10 pm

Eat Drink Style Ondal 2, Mid-City Los Angeles - The Four Acts of Ondal's Spicy Crab Soup

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

When it comes to avoiding wastefulness, you've got to hand it to the Koreans, over any of the ethnicities in Asia.  Each asian country has its way of using up every part of an animal or vegetable but I've noticed that the Koreans definitely shine in the double-meal category.  There's shul lung tang, a dish that is made from boiling discarded leg bones and oxtails overnight to produce a thick, white soup accompanied by various boiled meat and green onions. The meat from the bones usually graduates to a spicy beef soup or even for bbq. If you've eaten spicy korean tofu stew, soon doo boo, you'll sometimes have rice served in a stone pot, known as dol sot. After the rice is scooped out of the stone pot, water or barley tea is then added to create a makeshift 'soup'. The taste from the burnt brown rice adds a subtle char to the soup which is then in need of salt and pepper for taste.  I enjoy the burnt pieces of rice but have yet to finish a full bowl of tea soup.  I've also seen many people in restaurants, particularly males, finish up a particular stew or soup and then dump in another bowl of rice to sop up the soup. My Korean friends from high school would always do the same thing with their instant kimchi bowls... eat all the noodles, drink some soup, add rice and finish up everything – making it a double meal.

Last week, this observation on Korean 'double-mealing' has been taken to another level after my coworkers and I tried a place known for their spicy korean crab soup, kkot gae tang.   I had seen Ondal 2 many times, partly because it sticks out like a sore thumb in a pre-dominantly African American and Latino part of Mid-City Los Angeles.  And the sight of a silly looking Sanrio-style crab on the sign only makes the place more approachable.   

We walked in and were greeted by two servers.  TVs blared the latest world news in Korean.  All in an empty restaurant at 12:30.  We were handed menus and right away, my eyes went straight to the prices.  $55 for a medium sized crab soup.  I was well aware of it through some reviews on Yelp but with only three people, we had better be starving to make this even worth it.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

My coworker PR was wearing a light shirt and asking for trouble.  A spicy orange soup is a force to be reckoned with especially if you still have the rest of the workday to survive. He took his placemat and constructed his own bib/napkin.  As you can see, not much real estate and straight up looks stupid haha.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Luckily, our server saw us messing around and quickly brought over some official Ondal 2 aprons.  She then stared me in the eye, closing her eyes to focus better and asked if I was Chinese.  She spoke both Korean and Chinese, and only made this a better experience for us since we could communicate.    

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

After munching on some side dishes, we saw our server come out of the kitchen with a large steaming pot and all three of us were stoked.  It was simply beautiful.  Four decent-sized crabs comfortably enjoying a hot tub moment.  I had never seen crabs like these, especially with the red circular markings which probably denote the crab's sex.  The server told us that these crabs are straight from Korea.  Did they come dressed in black?  I wonder if they like K-clubbing, have a singing contract, excel in online multiplayer games and binge off soju all day long.  Not that I'm profiling or anything, just saying.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

What you're about to see is not a double or triple meal, but a quadruple meal.  For us consumers, Ondal 2 is somewhat economical.  For a Korean crab, it is a nightmare that they have to relive over and over and over and over again. Imagine knowing that fate has brought you to this very restaurant on Washington Blvd.   The meal we had here really plays out like a Saw-like horror movie broken into four cruel, yet delicious acts.  And just a note, a coworker of mine has emphasized the fact that is dish is not particularly native to Korean cuisine, but more so a culinary creation that has caught people's attention.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act 1 - The Shell
Once the pot of crabs is set down on the table, it is brought to a boil.  Our lovely mortician then takes each crab shell and begins to compile a dish that reminds me of a Brazilian favorite known as casquinha de siri.  A crab shell is hollowed out and filled with a mixture of goodies, and then baked or deep fried.  Great stuff.  This was a little different and dare I say, much better.  Here at Ondal 2, they only use female crabs so that Act 1 can exist.  The server takes the crab shell and begins to add crab roe, rice and bean sprouts into the shell.  And tops it off with a nice shot of crab-flavored soup from the hot pot.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

I'm not sure that I would feel right eating meat from an animal's skull, but this seems perfectly moral and legal to me.  The soup is really, really tasty and just full of crab flavor.  The roe was good as usual and went well with the crunch of the bean sprouts and flavored rice.  This rocked.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act II - The Claws & Legs
The server then proceeds to make use of the handy Korean scissors.  I've grown to love the usage of scissors, especially with cutting meat.  It's the Korean version of arts & crafts time.  The soup is so spicy that any bacteria on those scissors stands no chance of proliferating.  She hacks up all the claws and legs, making the four crabs into forty various pieces.  At this point, it looks like sheer disaster.   

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

This particular type of crab really is something new to me.  The meat was almost more textured, and I could feel the many muscle fibers.  It was not overly sweet and very easy to pull out of the shell.  I pulled out all the claw and leg meat and ate them with soup.  Again, very tasty. 

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act III - The Broth & "Noodles"
At this point, we are getting pretty full.  We had already eaten a concoction served in a crab shell and numerous pieces of claw and leg meat.  Not to mention that the soup was also pretty damn spicy.  I was starting to break into sweat and the server seeing this, just gave us our own pitcher of water.  Good thinking.  She let out a sinister laugh when I ask her if there'll be more.  Her pupils turned red like a demon's and I knew right then not to really question her anymore.  Nevermind I asked!  She takes out all the bean sprouts and crab parts and dumps them in another bowl.  The hot pot is refilled with more stock and zuccini slices and onions are added and brought to a boil.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Out of nowhere, she pulls out a piece of dough wrapped tightly in saran wrap.  She plays with the dough a little, giving a little tug here and there and begins to rip the dough into flat shapes of 'noodles'.  This is known as su jae bi, and somewhat similar in texture to Korean rice ovalettes.  These were pretty fun to eat.

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Act IV - The Fried Rice
By now, we were way too full.  The thought of taking another bite of crab was tough but again, I saw our server back with her shenanigans.  This time with a small plate of white rice, seaweed and sesame oil.  My coworkers just shook their head in disbelief.   

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

The server added some sesame oil in the pot that once housed the soup, the noodles, the crab parts, crab roe and crab shell.  Then rice, seaweed and of course, crab stock, was added.  All this done at the table by the multi-tasking Korean server.  Why did I have a feeling that this would be killer? 
Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Do you now know what I mean by Korean 'multi-mealing'?  I think I took a few bites of this before tapping out with the ref.  We couldn't do it.  We ended up doggy-bagging the rice, soup and remaining crab parts  All of which could provide a full snack for two people.  This was good after adding more crab stock and some soy sauce.  

Ondal 2, Los Angeles

Whether or not the Korean tradition of 'multi-mealing' emerged from periods of poverty in Korea or simply because Koreans enjoy stuffing their faces, I find myself still thinking about this particular meal in which I, along with coworkers, really got to know these four crabs.  Inside out.  The $55 is jarring at first, but once you see how much food you get, it's quite a deal.  I highly recommend getting this medium and asking for your own paste to spice up your broth.  I'll be back here again.  I heard the steamed beef hot pot and monkfish hot pot is good as well but I don't know that I can veer away from crab.  Thanks for reading.

Hot Pot Recommendations
Medium = 3-4 people (I recommend 4 people at least)
Large = 5-6 people
X-Large = 6-8 

Ondal 2
4566 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90016
(323) 933-3228

Eat Drink Style Olympic Noodle, Koreatown - Korean-Style Knife-Cut Noodles

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

As a noodle enthusiast, I give every cultures's offerings a chance whenever I can. Up until a few years ago, I didn't think Korean food had much to offer outside of their cold noodles (naeng myun), fried vermicelli noodles (jaap chae) and more popular amongst pimple-faced, brace-wearing teenagers, the instant kimchi noodle bowls loaded with MSG. Then I was introduced to Ma Dang Gook Soo and Myung Dong KyoJa, both of which are popular noodle joints in Koreatown. It was the first time I had eaten Korean-style knife-cut noodles and it was pretty good. I lost interest in MDGS pretty quickly because the soup was just too starchy. MDK's style of soup noodles also reminded me a lot of Chinese ground pork noodles (rou zhao and ja jiang mian). The dish itself is tasty when you add all the necessary condiments but the overcooking noodles was sadly consistent and really killed it for me. Korean noodles are good, but in the minor leagues compared to Chinese knife-shaven noodles (dao xiao mian). This style of noodle was done really well at places like Heavy Noodling and Kang Kang Food Court in SGV, and more recently, JTYH Restaurant in Rosemead. But there's a certain simplicity and homeyness to Korean food that I really enjoy. I'm not Korean but I certainly eat a lot of Korean food.

Given the option to spend $12-15 for a lunch in Culver City, I'd rather take El Diez down to Crenshaw for a place almost 1/2 the cost of it – and that's where I've been eating a lot of lunch. The fact that I've been back here nearly 10 times... bringing my wife Jeni, 3-4 coworkers and in the near future, the members of the Le Club de Grub project at work, it is clear that I really do enjoy this place.

You can expect your typical Korean restaurant set-up and decor here. Wood-laminate walls, a TV blaring Korean soap-operas and a large fridge loaded with condiments. The majority of the clientele here during lunch are older Korean businessmen, wearing napkins to shield any oily splash-back from the broth. But what you'll notice here if you pay attention is just how silent it is, with exception to a few loud slurpers. Everyone is pretty busy with their face in the large metal bowls. Always a good sign.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Here's the first reason why I like Olympic Noodle: their kimchi. It's not that bullshit watery, acidic kind from Cosmos jars. It's fresh, pasty, spicy and garlicky kimchi that is made like every few days. If you touch the kimchi with your fingers, you can still feel its pulse. Also, the servers are as nice as your own mother (hopefully). When it's not busy, they'll come and cut up your kimchi, making you a prince instantly for that $7.69 you're spending on their soup noodles – not bad right? AND, peppermint candy for your breath.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Steamed Dumplings
The Chinese make solid dumplings. I never had a huge liking for Korean dumplings because (A) they overstuff their dumplings, (B) don't go beyond meat and green onion filling and (C) I can't for the life of me figure out why a bag of 40 Korean dumplings will cost $12 at the market. And after trying Myung Dong Kyoja's dumplings, which I know is a big Koreatown favorite as well, I think I decided to stay with Chinese dumplings. And then, I find this place thanks to a coworker and I am liking Korean dumplings again. You can order these steamed, boiled or fried but I highly recommend steaming because you'll get the maximum flavor. But either of these will taste good unless you have your dipping sauce. A simple mix of soy sauce, vinegar, red chili paste and a few dashes of sesame oil – you're good.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Portrait of a Dumpling About to Be Eaten, 2009, Oil, Paint, Printed on Canvas
It was steamed perfectly and full of flavor. My coworker and I downed these in like 5 minutes. Note: Korean-style fried dumplings usually mean they are dumped in the fry-o-lator, not pan fried like potstickers or gyoza. Fried is good as well.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Main Event: Chicken Noodle Soup
This is what most people order and it's tasty. You can tell the soup is boiled with bones when it has that muddier color like tonkotsu ramen, which is known for its rich, pork bone broth. They give a lot of chicken actually and boiling it for a while is probably the easiest way to eat a dry-ass piece of chicken breast. The noodles have curves and jagged edges from inconsistent knife-work but have a nice bite to it. On the side, you'll see a red chili powder/scallion paste that you add to the chicken soup noodles. Then there's a soy sauce/scallion "relish" jar too for you to flavor the broth if needed. A few dashes of sesame oil can make it taste pretty good too. I prefer the Anchovy broth noodle soup because it has that nice dashi taste to it. But with first-timers, I always order them the chicken incase the word 'anchovy' makes them run for the hills.

Olympic Noodle, Koreatown Los Angeles

Just a note, one bowl of soup noodles is usually good between two people if you order the dumplings – only costing you $15 total with tax. Actually at Olympic Noodle, I usually see TWO GIRLS, ONE BOWL. K, bad joke – I'm not even going to provide a reference link. If you're in the mood for something homey and tasty, Olympic Noodle will do the trick. Thanks for reading.

Olympic Noodle
4008 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 931-0007

Eat Drink Style Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown - Garlic Warfare in Koreatown

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

If you think about it, garlic is probably the one ingredient that is prevalent in almost every culture's food. Revered for its healing and medicinal qualities, this member of the onion family, along with leeks, shallots and chives, was used once as currency, for healing wounds, ingested for spiritual reasons and for warding pale, creepy people with fangs. But for those that enjoy food, we all know that garlic is a major component in cooking and repelling a hot date during dinner. Whether its sauteed or even eaten raw, garlic can take a dish to higher levels. But to what level specifically?

I don't know, but I have a feeling the Koreans may have an answer. Why Korea? Over Spain, Italy and America, Koreans consume more garlic per capita than anyone else. Just how much? Americans eat an average of 2.5 lbs. of garlic a year... Koreans – 22 lbs. a year. 22 lbs. of garlic in a bag can knock you out if it was swung at you with enough force. I've always known that Koreans use copious amounts of garlic, along with sesame oil and red chilis, but this as you will learn very soon, is a complete understatement. For many years already, garlic warfare is happening in Koreatown. And you probably didn't know that it was happening at a place on Wilshire and Harvard.

I first came to Myung Dong Kyoja when I was searching for one of my favorite korean dishes, kal gook soo. Kal gook soo literally means "knife-cut noodles" and it is basically a soup noodle dish with various toppings and broth flavorings. The most popular being chicken noodle soup (dahk kal gook soo) and anchovy-flavored noodle soup (myeol chi kal gook soo) offered at Koreatown places like Ma Dang Gook Soo and Olympic Noodle. Unlike a proper bowl of pho or Chinese beef noodle soup, this dish is much more simple, comforting and homey. The soup at first may seem light in flavor, but the simple addition of some scallion/chili/soy sauce relish and chili powder and you're good to go.

When you first walk in here, almost instantly, you will be hit with an invisible fist of garlic. It is at the entrance of the door that you have the option of saving yourself from sweating out garlic for the rest of the day, or taking your palate on a test drive through Garlicville. Go for the latter if you're true garlic-head.

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

And once you've ordered your food, the server comes out with a small portion of kimchi as seen above. You're probably wondering why so little is given, but it's more than you'll need. I can promise you that every piece of cabbage packs a decent amount of minced garlic. At first bite, you'll know what I'm talking about. I think I ate about three pieces before my tongue started to sting a little from the fresh, fieriness of the minced garlic cloves. So fiery that when you drink some water to abate the pleasurable pain, you can feel a sort of numbness in the tongue. And I love it. It's almost like you're eating minced garlic with a side of red chili and cabbage.

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

Look at that, it is a crater of garlic. Just standing over this holding pot, I was hit with major garlic fumes. Insane!

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

If you can handle the hazing on the tongue, they'd be more than glad to serve you with another 1-2 punch. The servers come by with their kimchi pitcher and tongs. Intense!

In addition to the garlic freak show, there are a few things that are worth eating at MDKJ. The steamed dumplings (goon man doo) at first appear to be Korean cousins of the widely-adored Chinese xiao long bao, soupy pork dumplings. But they are nowhere nearly as juicy as they are. The dumplings themselves are plump due to a heavy vegetable to meat ratio. They are steamed in a plastic basket and are indeed pretty decent. But I prefer the well-balance boiled dumplings found at places like Dumpling 10053, Dean Sin World and Lu Noodle House. Anyway, a simple mixture of a Korean condiment and vinegar and you're good to go.

There's also MDKJ's version of kal gook soo, which tastes even better once you add the Korean flavoring condiment and maybe a dash of vinegar. The thing I've noticed with Korean soup noodles is that they cook the noodles a little too long for my taste. I enjoy a toothsome, notable al-dente-ness in every bite. So I highly recommend ordering your noodles a bit harder. Problem is if you're non-Korean like me, communicating that is a bit difficult.

Myung Dong Kyoja

But thanks to my trusty Translator app for my iPhone, I can get from point A to B. I always get a kick out of seeing their reaction because this Translator app is so literal, but they get the idea. I said: "Hello. I like my noodles chewy. Not soft. Thank you. Also your kimchi is very strong in garlic taste. Intense! But I love it."

Myung Dong Kyoja

If the garlic kimchi isn't holding up to your garlic expectations, you need to use this relish consisting of soy sauce, minced garlic, scallions and a type of mild korean pepper that has a taste similar to bell peppers and slight spice kick from shishito peppers. I love this sauce. Add 2-3 big scoops of this sauce into your kal gook soo soup noodles and you're set. Like I said before, the soup can be a little too plain without any sauce, so this is what is used to flavor your dish. I like my soup noodles with a touch of vinegar to cut through that muddy garlic tone.

Myung Dong Kyoja

Myung Dong Kyoja Kal Gook Soo
The version served here is much different than what you're probably used to. Soup noodles are served in a slightly starchy broth from the noodle runoff. It's topped with a simple stir fry of ground meat, zuccini, carrots, onions and 3-4 mini dumplings that I really enjoy. If you like the mini dumplings, you can order them straight up with soup and nothing else. Win.

Myung Dong Kyoja

Myung Dong Kyoja

This is what I call a happy meal. The surprise gift is a fiery mouth of garlic.

Myung Dong Kyoja, Koreatown

I wasn't kidding when I said there is garlic warfare happening in Koreatown. They've even provided you with a fancy gargling machine in the restroom, the Garlic Kimchi-a-tor 5000. I took a shot of the gargling liquid and it did nothing for me but create this minty garlic taste that seemed to never go away. Don't say I didn't warn you about the garlic. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Myung Dong Kyoja
3630 Wilshire Blvd. (c/o Harvard)
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-7789

Eat Drink Style Honey Pig, Koreatown - Porny the Pig

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Prime Kalbi

Sometimes, words are simply unnecessary. And sometimes, I wish these images were scratch n' sniff. Google and Apple, I'm waiting. There are three things that define Honey Pig: fire, shield-size grill and pig. Lots of pig. Go. Enjoy.

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Kimchi

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Octopus Tentacles

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Prime Kalbi

Honey Pig, Koreatown Los Angeles - Prime Kalbi

Honey Pig
3400 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 380-0256

Eat Drink Style Ma Dang Gook Soo - Korean Handmade, Knife-Cut Noodles

Ma Dang Gook Soo

Since moving to the Silver Lake area, it's been beneficial living in such close proximity to Koreatown, what J & I refer to as a foodie goldmine. We used to frequent the standard Korean bbq joints most newcomers to Korean cuisine dined at, but learned that there is far more depth to what is one of my favorite Asian cuisines behind Chinese and Vietnamese. There's the 14-hour-braised beef bone soup called suhl lung tang, the spicy crab hot pot, spicy raw crab, black bean noodles, all-you-can-eat intestines & tripe, sashimi rice bowls, cold buckwheat noodles, pork belly fried rice cooked on a Medieval-style shield, etc. The list goes on. But as much as I love korean food, one thing I wished there was more of is soup noodles. In addition to the Korean-Chinese dish jjam pong, a fiery seafood noodle soup, jaap chae (beef & vegetable vermicelli) and packaged kim-chi ramen (la myun), the list is still short. And then I find out from trusty Koreatownists about a place called Ma Dang Gook Soo - a place for kal gook soo, korean soup noodles.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Fresh Noodles

J & I parked in the tiny strip mall MDGS is located in, which neighbors BCD Tofuhouse and E-Moon Oak . Walking up, I saw this illustrated motif of something very promising. Handmade! Knifecut! I could hear the Pavlov bells ringing. We walked in and see four waitresses in the kitchen turn around and say 'ahn yong ha sae yo'! The restaurant itself has a very homey feel and is adorned with large photos of Korean villages. By the cashwrap, small photos of their menu are displayed across a wall but you can tell it's been about a century since they last updated the withering food images.

Ma Dang Gook Soo

We took our seats and were immediately served some ice cold barley tea, which is refreshing during the summer season. On the wall were a few Korean articles and a Jonathan Gold review on MDGS. Here is Mama Ma Dang Gook Soo.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Mama

As I was walking to the bathroom, I took a peek into the kitchen and saw four Korean women making noodles – I wanted to document it! I walked into the kitchen slowly and did this sign language communication thing with my fingers and camera. After a few seconds of puzzled looks, they figured out that I wanted to take a photo and welcomed me in. The women were joking around and frolicking in their freshly made noodles – they all wanted to pose for the camera, but everyone made way for Mama MDGS. As I was taking the photo, she lifted the noodles up like a kid showing his 3-lb trout on a summer trip.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Mama

Ma Dang Gook Soo Fresh Noodles

There's nothing more beautiful than freshly made noodles or pasta. The flour was rolled into a very thin layer and folded over neatly like a book of fabric. The cook then took her 14-inch chef knife and gracefully sliced the dough into 1/2" noodles (similar to fettucini). Note that these are handmade & knife-cut noodles, unlike the chinese knife-shaven noodles (dao xiao mian). The process is different because a cook will hold a ball of dough, use a paring knife to skillfully launch the slivers of dough into a boiling pot. The result is a chewy, un-uniform 'noodle'.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Kal Gook Soo

Korean Soup Noodles with Chicken - dahk kal gook soo ( 닭 칼 국 수)
My eyes lit up when I saw our waitress carefully steer herself in between the tables, holding a piping hot bowl with two hands. Steam beautifully rising above. I was intentionally limiting myself to the side dishes set in front of me, saving my space for this. You can order from four types of soup noodles: chicken (what most people recommend), clams, anchovy and kimchi. The bowl comes with shredded white meat, julienned scrambled eggs, 1 whole boiled potato, zuccini, scallions, roasted seaweed in a white, milky broth. I'm sure the majority of the whiteness comes from the flour runoff of the fresh noodles. Like suhl lung tang, kal gook soo is served somewhat plain. You're expected to use the condiment tray to flavor your own soup. A little salt, tons of black pepper and 3 big scoops of their delicious, garlicky chili paste. Everything tasted really good, and is simply comforting. It wasn't the most outstanding noodle dish I've had, but I worked up a nice sweat because I enjoyed it. Compared to more robust soup noodles like Thai Boat Noodles or the spicy lemongrass-based bun bo hue, one may think that kal gook soo is on the lighter, bland side. But I'm a huge fan of Korean food because most of the dishes are very homey and untainted by customers demands. Next time I'm going for the Anchovy version. Yum.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Kal Gook Soo

Close-up of the Noodles ( 닭 칼 국 수)
I loved the un-uniform cut of the noodles. Such a nice feeling knowing that my food wasn't processed by some greasy, rusty metal monster. I much prefer my food made by jolly Korean women frolicking in flour and noodles. Wee!

Ma Dang Gook Soo Chili Paste

MDGS's Chili Paste ( 다 대 기)
One look at this and I fell in love. Scallions, garlic, red chili pepper (go chu ga roo), sesame seeds, soy sauce and sesame oil... hot. I added 3 big scoops to my soup noodles. This isn't spicy at all and is simply a flavor enhancer. I can eat this stuff off rice because it's so tasty. I took half the jar back in a small container. Sorry MDGS!

Ma Dang Gook Soo Jjol Myun

Cold Spicy Noodles ( 쫄면)
This may look like bi bim naeng myun (cold spicy buckwheat noodles with meat) but there are subtle differences. The noodles used for this are made of wheat flour and potato-starch, which make the noodles extremely chewy. There's no meat in here but rather a barrage of julienned vegetables and topped with half a boiled egg. This was also served with a hot bowl of anchovy broth which is reminiscent of bonito flakes.

For those that have been to Olympic Noodle and Myung Dong Kyoja, would love to know what you think of their kal gook soo soup noodles. Reports on those other two soon! The total bill for this was $16... a great deal for a meal that makes you feel at home without hearing the crap that comes out of your parents mouths. Thanks for reading.

869 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA, 90005
(213) 487-6008
CASH ONLY (what a surprise?!)