KOREAN RECIPE: Knife-cut Noodle Soup with Chicken Broth

닭칼국수 (Dalkkalguksu or Dalk Kalguksu)                                     by RaOn   
                                                                                                    trans./ed. by Onsemiro                                                                             

Kalguksu is Korea’s favorite comfort food on a rainy day


On rainy days, Koreans love to eat foods made of wheat flour such as Kalguksu1 (칼국수, “Hand-made, knife-cut noodle soup”), Sujebi2 (수제비, “Hand-made dough flake soup”), Pajeon (파전, “Scallion or green onion pancakes”) or Buchimgae (부침개, “A variety of Korean-style pancakes”).  On any rainy day in Korea, you can easily hear people say, “Why don’t we make Kalguksu (or Sujebi) since it’s raining today?” or “Wanna go to eat Buchimgae (or Pajeon) since it’s raining and lousy?”  I bet you're wondering now why Koreans eat such foods on rainy days.


1.  NDR/NDT: In Korean, the word kal means “knife” and guksu “noodles,” and combined, Kalguksu literally translates to "knife noodles," and in fact, it is a soup dish basically made with hand-made, “knife-cut” wheat flour noodles.  Kalguksu used to be a summer food (even though it is consumed year round nowadays) and Koreans traditionally ease the rainy day blues with it.
2.  NDR/NDT:  Sujebi is an easier and simpler to make and lighter-tasting cousin of Kalguksu.  The word su () is of Chinese origin and means “hand” and jebi evolved from the native Korean word jeobi (접이) that means “folding.”


When it rains, many individuals commonly feel depressed as the pressure drops or the human body temperature tends to rise regardless of external temperature.  In traditional Korean herbal medicine, wheat flour is classified as a cold food as it reduces the heat in the human body and relieves the thirst,3 and this is why Koreans naturally and instinctively crave foods made of wheat flour whenever it rains, especially during the summer wet season.

Even though rice is Korea’s most favored staple food, wheat flour has become one of the popular, common ingredients among masses.4  Unlike in Western countries, however, Koreans still eat foods made of wheat flour on special occasions and eating them on rainy days has become Korea’s collective habit or national tradition.  So when you go to Korea and when it rains, you will, without fail, smell the aroma of Kalguksu, Sujebi, Pajeon, or Buchimgae being cooked here and there or witness a loooooooooong line of people in front of specialty restaurants of such foods.


3.  NDR/NDT: Wheat flour contains essential amino acids, some B vitamins, and starches/carbohydrates that increase serotonin levels.  Serotonin is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.
4.  NDR/NDT: When the Korean War was over in 1953, there were no crops available to people for the war had made agriculture impossible in most of the areas.  After the war, South Korea became one of the largest recipients of US food aid in the 1950s and 1960s; items such as sugar and wheat flour were supplied at bargain prices.  Even though rice is its most favored staple food, post-war Korea had to rely on foods made using US wheat flour.


Kalguksu, a dish of the day, has many other names according to a main ingredient of its stock (or in the soup):  It’s called (i) Bajirak Kalguksu (바지락 칼국수, “Hand-made noodle soup with short-necked clam broth”) when short-necked clams are used in soup, (ii) Gimchi Kalguksu (김치 칼국수, “Hand-made noodle soup with Kimchi”) when a generous amount of Kimchi is used, (iii) Yachae or Chaeso5 Kalguksu (야채 or 채소 칼국수 , “Hand-made noodle soup with vegetables”) when zucchini, carrots, and Mung bean sprouts are used, (iv) Dalk Kalguksu ( 칼국수, “Hand-made noodle soup with chicken broth”) when a chicken (or two) is used in soup, and so on and so forth.


5.  NDR/NDT: In Korean, the word yachae (야채野菜) is used for wild vegetables and chaeso (채소菜蔬) for home-grown or field/garden-grown vegetables.  Thus, Chaeso Kalguksu, not Yachae Kalguksu, is an accurate name for the dish.  The younger Korean generation (and even many of the older generations) nowadays, however, tends to use the word yachae for almost every kind of vegetables.  BTW, some people believe the word is of Japanese origin but, to the best of my knowledge, it’s not true.




INGREDIENTS (5 Servings): 

● 3~4 fresh songi beoseot*(pine mushrooms), sliced into strips
SUBSTITUTE: any variety of mushrooms
● 1~2 dried red chili peppers, sliced into thin strips
● 1 green onion, thinly sliced

Chicken Stock
● 2 Cornish game hens
● 10 cups water
● 1 large size onion
● 2 green onions or scallions
● 6 cloves of garlic
● 2~3 hwanggi (dried Astragalus roots)(optional) 
● a pinch whole black peppercorns
● salt and/or gukganjang (soy sauce for soup)* to taste

Noodle Dough
● 5 cups all-purpose wheat flour**
● 1¼ cup water
● 1 egg
● 2 tsp grape seed oil
SUBSTITUTE2 tsp lemon juice
● 1 tsp salt

*You can find songi beoseot or pine mushroomshwanggi or dried Astragalus roots, and gukganjang or soy sauce for soup in your local Korean markets.
**I recommend you to buy Gompyo all-purpose flour at Korean grocery stores for best results. If you’re a health-conscious cook, then just mix half all purpose flour with half whole wheat flour in your recipe.





Step 1:  Clean Whole Cornish Hens

1. Thaw completely if the hens were frozen.  Remove a giblet package from the cavity of each hen.
2. Use your thumbs or fingers to force the dark reddish colored kidneys out of the back side of the cavity near the tail of each hen.
3. Trim the excess fat and make sure to cut the tails away and discard to make the soup leaner and healthier.
4. Rinse thoroughly the cleaned hens with cold water, inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.  (To prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen, thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, knives/scissors and hands with hot soapy water after cleaning the raw hen.)


Step 2:  Make Chicken Stock

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add in the hens and boil for 5 minutes.  Discard the water and wash thoroughly the hens with cold water.  Wash the pot as well.
2. Put the hens in the pot and pour in 10 cups of water.  Add in an onion, green onions or scallions, 6 cloves of garlic, 2~3 hwanggi (dried Astragalus roots), and a pinch whole black peppercorns, and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low then let simmer for about 2 hours.



3. Remove the boiled hens from the broth and set aside. 
4. Remove the boiled vegetables from the broth and discard.  Skim the fat off the broth.




5. Pull the boiled hens into strips.
6. Slice songi beoseot (pine mushrooms), dried red chili peppers, and a green onion into strips.




Step 3:  Make Noodle Dough

(You can jump to step 5 if you choose to buy pre-made Kalguksu noodles, which are available at your local Korean markets.)

(UPDATE: You can buy pre-made Kalguksu noodles at Trader Joe's for less than 2 dollars for a pack. Look for "Fresh Noodlesin the soy/tofu product section.)


 


1. In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of all-purpose wheat flour, 1¼ cup of cold water, 2 teaspoons of grape seed oil (or lemon juice), 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  (Oil or lemon juice is added to make the noodles chewy in texture.) Knead for about 10 minutes to make the dough soft. 
2. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, and chill it in the freezer for about an hour.
3. Knead again the chilled dough until smooth, play-doughish yet soft.


Step 4:  Make Knife-cut Noodles

1. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a clean, well-floured surface like a wooden cutting board or counter.
2. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a very thin sheet (into a 0.1 inch thick, approx. 12X6 or 12X7 rectangle).
3. Dust your hands and each surface of the sheet lightly with flour.  Fold the sheet into thirds and cut with a knife.   
4. Lightly dust the cut noodles with flour and toss them lightly a few times to keep the strands separated.




Step 5:  Boil Knife-cut Noodles in Chicken Broth

1. Bring about 3 cups (750ml) of chicken broth to boil.  In the meantime, blanch the knife-cut noodles in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and wash them in cold water.  This is to have a clean, not sticky, soup by cooking away the flour dusted over the noodles.
2. Drop the noodles into boiling chicken broth, and add in chicken strips, sliced songi beoseot (pine mushrooms), and a green onion (previously prepared above). Let cook for 3~5 minutes until noodles are tender.  Add salt and/or gukganjang to the broth to taste.



3. Portion the noodles into 5 large individual bowls.  Remove chicken strips, sliced songi beoseot (pine mushrooms), dried red chili peppers, and a green onion from the broth and garnish. Also garnish with dried red chili pepper slices.  Pour the broth gently over the noodles.  Serve hot.




NDR/NDT: ALTERNATIVES

[Seafood Stock]
● 10 cups water
● 5 TBSP dried Korean anchovy powder*
● 2 TBSP dried pyogo (shiitake) powder*
● 2 TBSP dried dasima (sea tangle) powder*
(Click here to learn how to make these powder ingredients.)
● 6 cloves of garlic
● 1 pack of seafood medley, thawed

If you prefer clean broth, use the ingredients with asterisk as is. For this recipe, you’ll need 1½ fistful of dried anchovies, four of five dried pyogo, and four 2x2 inch dasima.  Just don’t forget to remove these ingredients from the broth after simmering for 10~15 minutes.

[Vegetarian Stock]
● If you want to make vegetarian rice cake soup, minus the anchovies and add more dasima squares and pyogo mushrooms for the broth instead.


 My sister, RaOn, is a contributing blog writer on this blog.  She currently lives in Seoul, Korea, and writes about what real Korean people eat at home or at Korean-style diners, not at fancy restaurants – it’s just simple yet healthy comfort foods that happen to be very delicious!