Wednesday, March 12, 2008

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?!)


Oishii Eats said...

Hi my name is Jeni. I've been reading your blog for a while and I have to ask...what camera are you using? Your pictures are beautiful.

margaret said...

between MDGS and myong dong kyoja, i prefer the latter. it's also all you can eat! (i'm good with 2 bowls)

Anonymous said...

looks so good. We may try this for lunch tomorrow or saturday

cakewardrobe said...

I love Korean noodles because they're usually chewy and fairly fat in size. I work right next to Ktown in NY and eat jajamyun and bibim neng myun alternately! haha

dapotato said...

this is one of my favorite kalgooksoo places, too. such good comfort food. it brings me back to watching my grandma make these at home. yum in many ways.

e d b m said...

Hi Jeni, want to meet up at a taco truck and get to know each other? wait, but can you join me at my friend's party first? thanks.

Greengelato, all you can eat??? and it's not named Hometown Buffet. awesome. thanks for stopping by.

AnOldie, check back in and let us know what you think. Thanks for stopping by.

Cakewardrobe, I love korean noodles as well b/c of the texture. I didn't before, but really appreciate the ingredients that go into their noodles. Ktown in Ny is literally 2 x 2 blocks wide. do you ever eat at Gahm Mi Oak for their suhl lung tang? Thanks for stopping by.

Dapotato, this definitely won't be the last time I eat here. i wanna try everything on the menu and perhaps participate in a fresh noodle food fight. Thanks for stopping by.

taste memory said...

hey there - i've book marked this....i am going back to l.a.(my past home)this summer - i am definitely going there for noodles & that crazy chili paste...then i'll hang a turn for dinner @ pinks(chili bacon saurkraut double hot dog burrito) - if they still have that! thanks for sharing pretty pix&the experience.

toshilee said...

MMM, madang gook soo looks delicious!!! I've been longing for some good Korean noodles! Thanks for the post, I think I will try it soon. :)I love your blog!

Unknown said...

my favorite kal gook soo place is olympic noodle but the dumplings at myong dong kyoja are amazing!

Anonymous said...

You have to try the cold bean puree noodles at Myong Dong Kyoja. I think they make their noodles with green tea.

Anonymous said...

I like your descriptions of the food. As a busy mom and second generation Korean-Canadian, I don't have time to go hunting for recipe ingredients but enjoy getting the overall description as enthusiastically as you've written them!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog~

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