Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kalguksu (2)

There's a Korean cuisine show on the Cooking Channel called Korean Food Made Simple. I'm not exactly Judy Joo's biggest fan (just being honest) but as a Korean girl who loves Korean food, watching her show always makes my mouth water. Recently, I watched an episode where Judy was hanging out in a busy food court-style corridor in Seoul where several kalguksu stalls lined either side of the hallway. She stopped at one of the most popular spots where the owner was making noodles to order. After Judy tried her hand at making some noodles herself, she stopped and sat down at one of the stools. Then, the owner served her a hot bowl of fresh kalguksu. It looked so incredibly delicious that I couldn't stop thinking about it and I decided I had to make some for dinner. I had to.

Kalguksu translates to "knife noodles" (literal translation, 'kal' is knife and 'guksu' is noodles). If you guessed that the noodles are cut with a knife, then you are a genius. They're soft and chewy and somewhat irregular and misshapen, which is part of their charm, and the soup is salty and savory. It's a great recipe for getting kids involved - I loved mushing around the dough when I was younger - and it's simple but elegant and delicious and hearty. The noodles are chucked into a simple broth and it's perfect.

I shared a kalguksu recipe a few years ago but I thought it was time for an update. This new recipe is incredibly similar (the noodles are exactly the same) but I went for a slightly lighter but still flavorful soup.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
noodles
1¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon canola oil
½ cup hot water

soup
6 to 8 cups water
1 tablespoon dried anchovies
4 cloves garlic, smashed
¼ onion, sliced
1 zucchini
½ teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste

+ scallions
+ sliced hot peppers

Let's talk about the noodles first. They are the star of the dish, after all.
To start, just add the flour and salt into a bowl and give it a good stir with a fork. Create a well in the center and pour in your hot water and oil and then stir until the dough is clumpy. Instead of regular hot water, I actually started the soup (the soup for which I share the directions below) and grabbed a ladle-full of the stock. You certainly don't have to do that; it doesn't add enough flavor for it to be noticeable. I was just too lazy to heat up a cup of water (and we don't own a microwave).

By the way, the water should be bath water temperature (100F) so you can certainly just turn your tap on the hottest setting and use the water right out of the faucet. The only trait of hot faucet water that I dislike is the fact that the heat can sometimes dissolve minerals stuck to your water pipes and those get added to your food. That's why, even if I'm putting a pot of water on to boil, I use cold water from the tap. But hey, that's just me.
Once the dough clumps up, the fork will be rendered useless so it's time to use the best kitchen tools: your hands! Mash the dough around in the bowl just to get the dough formed and then dump it out onto a work surface. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes until it's smooth. The kneading is an important step. It will develop the gluten and make for a chewier noodle.
Leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax a bit. If you try to roll the dough out right away, it will just spring back and you won't be able to get it thin enough.
Divide the dough into four pieces, just to make it easier to work with. Roll the dough into a log and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. Make sure to generously flour your work surface, the dough, and the rolling pin. The sheet of dough should be nice and smooth and silky, thanks to all of that kneading. The shape you roll out isn't too important, but I like to create a slightly oblong oval-ish shape. Try not to have too many jagged edges, since that will make it more difficult to roll up the dough when it comes time to cut the noodles.
Once the dough is rolled out, sprinkle generously with more flour and then fold it up. I like to fold up the bottom edge up about 2" and then continue rolling it up. Another option is to go for the accordion fold. I prefer rolling because that's what my mama did and mama knows best, right?
Grab your knife and cut the rolled up dough into noodles.
Shake out the cut up noodles and sprinkle with a little more flour so they won't stick. Roll out the remaining pieces of dough and make more noodles.
All right, now that we're done with the noodles, let's talk about the soup. In my previous post, I added potatoes but I decided that the noodles themselves provided enough carbohydrates - if you're concerned about your waistline at all - so I omitted the potatoes. And just to add a little more flavor, I also decided to toss in some onion.
To make the soup, grab a big pot of water and drop in anchovies, garlic, and onion. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let the pot sit on a low flame for 15 to 20 minutes until the soup is fragrant and flavored by the aromatics.
Cut up the zucchini into half moons and add them to the pot. Splash in some sesame oil and sprinkle in some salt.
When the zucchini is tender, it's time to add in the noodles. Carefully drop them in and then cook for about 3 minutes until the noodles float. Since they're fresh, they don't take long to cook.
Call the troops, because it's time to eat.
There are several garnish and finishing options for this soup. Judy Joo's dining experience included fried tofu and a spoonful of gochujang. I've also seen chopped kimchi and a drzzle of soy sauce. I opted for some shredded scallions and chopped spicy Thai chili peppers.
Serve everyone a piping hot bowl. Instruct the diners to mix the garnishes into the soup and then they can tuck in. The noodles are lovely. They're silky and chewy and soft. The soup is so flavorful, despite the fact that it's simply whipped up in less than 30 minutes. It's not fishy, either, if you're worried about the fact that the dried anchovies are one of the main ingredients. The anchovies just add a lovely salty savoriness. Now that the weather is starting to get cooler, I think hot soups are getting more and more appropriate, don't you?
Here's the recipe page:

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