Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kalguksu is the ultimate Korean comfort food. Available at most general restaurants, it’s enjoyed all over the country as a cherished dish cooked with a mother’s love and care.

As a noodle soup made with a broth from beef bones, kalguksu has a wonderfully milky taste and rich quality. The noodles are handmade from wheat flour with the magic touch coming from pushing down on the inner wrist when kneading. It’s then cut into thick strands that are known for its dense body and chewy texture. Korean cuisine generally favors long strands of noodles, which are a sign of living a long life. So if your bowl has particularly longer noodles, it’s not only good for your stomach but an auspicious sign of what’s to come. What makes kalguksu especially standout from other soups made with a similar broth is the starch from the noodles that give it an extra heaviness, which is a divine combination. The first sip of the broth will immediately give that full-bodied flavor from the beef and carbs, hitting the palate like the most comforting hug from childhood.

There are many variations of kalguksu that are not made from a beef broth. The beef version is more commonly found in Seoul since cow products are more expensive to use as an ingredient. But another popular type would be dak kalguksu, which is made from chicken broth with hand-pulled shreds of meat. It’s often referred to as Korean chicken noodle soup, holding the same nostalgia as similar versions from other cultures. Haemul kalguksu is made with a plethora of seafood, and popular in the southern and coastal regions within the country. This kalguksu is often cooked in larger quantities in a single pot to be enjoyed family style. But the most common form of kalguksu has a broth made of out anchovies since it’s a more affordable base to use. Unless a restaurant specifies the type of kalguksu they’re serving, the anchovy is what’s most likely being sold.

What’s just as important about the kalguksu eating experience is the kimchi it’s served with. Unlike other Korean dishes, kalguksu is specifically eaten with fresh kimchi, also known at geotjuri. This is a type of kimchi that’s not fermented and meant to be consumed within a week of being made. Kalguksu aficionados will often rate their favorite restaurant of the dish by the quality of their geotjuri, since it’s often harder to mess up on a kalguksu recipe rather than one for fresh kimchi. Geotjuri tends to have more spices and seasoning than regular kimchi, giving it slightly more of a bite and clean spiciness.

Some Korean people also eat kalguksu on days they feel like having geotjuri, making the noodle soup the side dish to fresh kimchi. But the most popular time for kalguksu is definitely summertime. Korean people love to eat hot soups and stews in the scorching summer weather because they like how it warms their body up to sweat even more. There’s a Korean phrase often used to express their delight for moments such as this. It’s called “shi-won-ha-da,” which translates to feeling refreshed and invigorated. And it’s the expression often heard in kalguksu restaurants when the temperature outside is feeling tropical.

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