강남교자 (Gangnam Gyoja)
Reviewed by Annie Namba on May 17, 2011 / Updated August 29, 2011
As with the better-known 명동교자 (Myeong-dong Gyoja), there are just four items on the menu here:
- 칼국수, hand-made noodle soup
- 만두, steamed dumplings
- 비빔국수, cold noodles in spicy sauce
- 콩국수, noodles in a bowl of cold soy milk
Extremely simple menu. They often take your order as soon as you sit down.
On this trip, we went with my mom, and we ordered 3 bowls of 칼국수 (7000원 each) and a plate of 만두 (7000원).
WARNING: Read the following notes before trying the kimchi.
After ordering, each person receives a small plate of kimchi and a piece of minty chewing gum. This seems odd, but the gum serves as an excellent reminder that this is not your ordinary, everyday kimchi.
It looks normal enough, but smell it and you'll know something is different. Try a piece, just a small one, and you will at once be overwhelmed by the taste of fresh garlic. Think of chomping a freshly peeled clove of garlic, seasoned with a little chili pepper and wrapped in cabbage, and you'll have an idea of what this kimchi is like. I think the spicy feeling after eating this kimchi is not from the chili pepper, but from the freshness of the garlic.
Anyway, when the kimchi and gum arrive, set them both aside for a little while.
Perfect steamed mandu, thin-skinned and full of flavor
The mandu comes out quickly. One plate is enough for two or three to share as a side dish (and if you want more, they can make it quickly). This is easily the best steamed mandu I've tasted, hands-down. The skin is so thin, almost transparent, revealing the contents: a filling made with pork, beef, vegetables and tofu. Juicy and perfectly seasoned.
When we're halfway through the mandu, the kalguksu is served, along with a scoop of millet rice on the side (you can get refills on the rice as needed). The soup is topped with pieces of another kind of thin-skinned mandu, plus bits of stir-fried beef and chives. The soup is thick and is chicken based. I like the texture of the noodles, so soft and smooth.
Add a scoop or two of the spicy soy sauce from the little metal jar at each table if you're feeling adventurous. It adds to the depth of flavor of your soup, and gives it a little spicy kick as well.
Finally, this is where that crazy kimchi comes in. Add a few pieces to your soup for yet another flavor dimension. While I would not recommend eating the kimchi by itself, as an addition to the soup, it is quite wonderful.
Remember: If you eat the kimchi, the minty chewing gum is not optional.
When you are about to leave, don't forget the gum. The cashier will appreciate it.
- Food: 4/5 - If you only serve four things, they'd better be good. And they are! The delicate noodles and thin-skinned mandu are foods I crave often.
- Service: 4/5 - They really love to refill your kimchi constantly, even excessively. When I was done, I had to tell many different servers not to give me any more.
- Atmosphere: 3/5 - Sort of a cafeteria vibe. Tables and seats are laid out to maximize the number of customers, and TVs on the walls (with sound) offer a constant distraction. Could be good if you are looking to catch up on news over lunch.
To get there: Go out Gangnam Stn exit #6 (or Sinnonhyeon exit #6), turn at Dunkin Donuts, look for the signs on the left. The restaurant is on the second floor, look for the stairs below the main sign in the first picture above.