Noodle Bar at Home (Feat. Korean Janchi Guksu)

Dinner parties can be difficult. Especially if you have run out of feasible options that are both delicious but affordable, AND on top of that, looks amazing.

Well, instead of planning a meal with various finicky side-dishes on top of the main dish, what about setting up a simple but delicious noodle bar at home? All you need is a great broth, noodles, a few toppings, and voila! Arrange your ingredients, and you have a great dinner party meal that is both delicious and has a bit of flair.

Janchi guksu is a soup dish with wheat noodles. The soup base is mainly made of dashima (kombu kelp) and dried sardines, giving the broth a deep, distinct umami flavor. Add in a few toppings, such as ribbons of egg, stir-fried vegetables, and tart kimchi, and your left with a faultless bowl of noodle soup that is especially suitable for colder weather. There is also something quite comforting when slurping on perfectly cooked noodles. Especially when you get slapped in the cheek mid-slurp.

Ingredients for this noodle party includes:

soup:
1 medium sized pot of anchovy/kombu broth (for a recipe for the broth, please refer to my post on dwaenjang jjigae)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon cheongha (dry white wine can be substituted)

toppings:
1 tablespoon olive oil/grapeseed oil
pinch of salt
1/2 large onion
1 small carrot
1 zucchini (please add zucchini. I didn’t have any at home so I just omitted it)
1 tablespoon garlic
1 large egg
1 cup sour kimchi
1 cup dried laver
chili pepper flakes/ground sesame seeds

noodles:
large pinch of salt
2 bundles of wheat noodles (somyeon noodles)

Serves 3 greedy people, 4 normal people.

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Slice your vegetables relatively thinly, but don’t fret too much about cutting them perfectly.

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Season and saute the vegetables until the onions are translucent and carrots are soft. Add the garlic during the last five minutes of the cooking process so it doesn’t burn. We aren’t looking for a lot of color, so cook the ingredients on a medium heat.

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Now for the egg sheet. Beat the egg thoroughly so it is without any lumps of yolk/egg white. I made a mistake here and poured it directly in the pan, making for a egg sheet with lots of “bubble holes.” Please let the egg rest for a minute so the bubbles go down, or put it through a mesh strainer.

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Lightly oil the pan with a sheet of kitchen paper moistened with oil. Use a non-stick pan for the best results. Just like making a crepe, move the mixture around the pan by swirling motions. Do this on a low heat. when the edges start to cook, lightly start scraping at the sides with a spatula. Then flip. It takes a little practice and it’s okay if yours doesn’t turn out great, because mine turned out like poop.

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I ended up having a slightly gooey egg sheet but was afraid to put it back on the pan, so I put it on a plate and cooked it for 20 seconds in the microwave. Please don’t do this. Because my egg sheet turned into a very tough, leather-like chewy weirdness. Egg sheets are supposed to be thin and delicate. But it’s okay if they don’t turn out the best, because that just means the next time you make it you will have more experience.

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Noods. The wheat kind, called “somyeon.” These are traditionally used for janchi guksu and have a lovely smooth, slightly springy texture. Very light. You could use other noodles, but I would recommend somyeon because it’s so cheap and easy to prepare. They also store beautifully in the fridge for a couple of days.

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This is the brand of somyeon I used.

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Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add a large pinch of salt and add your noodles. They cook pretty quickly, so shimmy the noodles into the water right away with your chopsticks.

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The cooking process of somyeon is unique in that when the noodles come to a boil, you add a cup of cold water to counter the cooking process. This makes for a very springy, light noodle.

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Do this process two times. By that time, the noodles will have cooked. Taste one to make sure.

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It is VERY important for you to wash your noodles thoroughly in cold water. The noodles itself were covered in a pretty thick starch layer, so if you don’t wash them, after a couple of minutes the noodles will start to stick to each other. After washing them and letting the excess moisture drain out of the noodles, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and coat them. This is to not only give a nice sesame aroma, but for further protection from noodle-sticking.

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Now for the broth. Bring your soup to a boil.

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Add a bit of light soy sauce (to taste) and a bit of cheongha. Sadly, my picture of cheongha got deleted.

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I also added two squares of aburaage, fried bean curd. They give a lovely richness to any soup, and also a bit of sweetness. I got these from Japan. Note the expiry date on the top. Ah, the perks of living alone (with a brother that hardly eats at home) and loving to cook. I buy tons of ingredients and am usually unable to finish everything, so in to the freezer everything goes! When something is getting close to its expiry date, I throw it into the freezer and it lasts much longer.

Okay, now it’s time to form our noodle bar.

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Put all of the separate toppings in bowls and plates. I also decided to cut up the kombu I used in my broth. It’s a waste to throw it away, and it tastes great when added to noodles so why not?

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Divide your noodles into however many people are present.

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Little toppings such as the egg sheet ribbons and kelp strips.

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Investing in a sesame mill is one of the best things you can do. Grinding your sesame seeds enhances the nutty flavor by a far mile. Chili pepper flakes are also a great addition to your noodle bar. I had some shichimi (seven flavor chili flakes) bought from a Japan grocery store.

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You can add any other topping you would like for your noodle bar. Thin strips of beef or pork would also be a delicious addition.

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Grab a bowl and arrange your toppings on top of your noodles.

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Ladle the warming, umami-filled broth into your bowl.

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With winter just around the corner, a noodle bar party would be perfect to warm your cockles.

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Slurp to your heart’s content.

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