Korean Knife Noodles (Kalguksu)

Kalguksu literally translates to "knife noodles" since they are made by slicing thin layers of dough with a knife into noodles. It's one of my favorite Korean noodles.

The term kalguksu is used much like the term ramen. Although both define a specific type of noodle, any dish made with it may simply be referred to as kalguksu or ramen. Like its Japanese counterpart, kalguksu is prepared as a noodle soup dish in a variety of broths. Some of the most popular kalguksu may come in chicken, anchovy or clam broths. I have a soft spot for chicken kalguksu since that is the one I ate most often as a child.

I tried kalguksu for the time at a tiny corner shop in a Korean grocery market. The noodles were so soft yet chewy. The broth was creamy and silky. I even loved the softened vegetables intermingled with shreds of succulent white chicken and feathery eggs in the soup. This was my first lesson in soul food.

The restaurant probably had no more than 5 rinky dink tables and was owned by a young couple who had just immigrated to the States a few years prior. The Osono's from Kiki's Delivery Service remind me of them, very friendly and familial folk.

The wife kindly urged my mother to do her shopping while I ate. Her husband was humming away to some trot music at work in his white apron, covered from head to toe in flour from making his specialty kalguksu noodles.

I don't know what it was but I always felt so much warmth around those two. They put a lot of love and care into a bowl of soup they charged too little for their expertise. They probably didn't make much to get by but they were always happy. After I emptied each delicious bowl, I'd chirp how their noodles were the "bestest in the world" with a cheesy thumbs up. They laughed heartily and beamed with pride. Now that I think about it I think I loved eating there because of their genuine hospitality towards me, even though I was just a small and scruffy kid. 

I love food attached to friendly memories and good people.

 

Ingredients

5 cups of all purpose wheat flour (preferably Gompyo brand)

1.5 to 2 cups of water

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl add 1.5 cups of water slowly to flour. Stir as you go with a wooden spoon or spatula. Do not add water all at once. Mix until all traces of dry flour have disappeared. There is no need to over mix or knead your noodles. The dough may seem super dry but don't worry, you can add more water later if you feel like it is too dry. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

  2. After 30 minutes begin kneading dough (straight out of the bowl) with your hands. The dough should be much easier to work with by now. Knead dough until all traces of dough stuck on the sides of the bowl have been incorporated into your dough.

  3. Transfer dough to a floured surface then knead dough with good strength for 10 minutes. Add the remaining half cup of water in increments if you feel like your dough is too dry- but remember kalguksu dough should be barely moistened and quite stiff! Adding too much water will make your noodles turn your broth into a roux. Just sayin'.

  4. Stop kneading after 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

  5. After 15 minutes your dough ball's surface should be smooth. Cut ball in half. Flour your rolling surface and rolling pin.

  6. Form one half of the dough into a disc and flour top of surface before rolling into a thin, even circle. Roll until the dough has become very thin, about 1 mm thick.

  7. Now it is time to fold your dough into a log. Before you do, flour your flattened dough surface so the noodles will not stick together when you slice them. Roll flattened dough into a log, pretty tightly about 2 inches wide.

  8. With a sharp chef's knife begin slicing into thin noodles, about 3 to 4 mm wide (much like the width of linguine).

  9. After the whole log has been sliced into noodle rounds, sprinkle with more flour and loosen to separate into noodles.

  10. Repeat steps 6 through 9 for the remaining half of dough.

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Voila! There you have it, your own chewy and delicious noodles just waiting to be bathed in hot broth. Add noodles directly into your boiling broth and cook for just 3 minutes or until al dente. Kalguksu dishes are meant to have a silky and slightly thickened broth (think something like egg drop soup). 

In this recipe I have only included the actual noodle recipe. In another post I will share how to prepare a kalgusku broth. All it really is though is adding these noodles to a broth of your choice and then adding in any desired veggies or toppings.

It is totally acceptable to use store bought chicken broth too. Crack in an egg in the last minute of cooking and top with stir fried onions and zucchini. Garnish with scallions. The possibilities are endless. Happy slurping.