Friday, April 10, 2015

5 of the Best Jajangmyeon 짜장면 in the City of Seoul, Korea


The Best Jajamyeon in Seoul by Daniel Gray
Jajangmyeon 짜장면: Korea's favorite hand pulled noodles in an black sauce is also a favorite dish of mine. It's so famous they even have a holiday for it. It's filling and hearty like a bowl of spaghetti but with Asian flair. It's one of those dishes that you can get whenever you need a quick meal and it doesn't break the wallet. It's a pretty ubiquitous dish and every Chinese restaurant must have it. If it does it well, the place becomes famous. If it is just alright, it is just a meal and gets classed in with all of the other places in the city. I can't say I have had any seriously terrible jajangmyeons except maybe some delivery places (where the noodles are overcooked and terribly clumped together so it takes like 10 minutes to get the sauce mixed into it) but even then it is still edible. With the noodles, I love to get fried dumplings and a place is good fried dumplings or some other sides like tangsuyok 탕수육. Anyway, the dish is loaded with calories (jajangmyeon has about 1000 calories per bowl if you also eat all the sauce) and as you know, I can't afford to waste my calories on terrible food (thanks wifey and MIL for reminding me). It's a comfort food so save it for when you get down and be sure to eat at places that are actually worthwhile. So what I look for in great jajangmyeon is a nice thick and savory sauce that is not too black bean...ish. Also, I prefer noodles that are handmade and pulled rather than the packaged ones.

Here are my picks for the best jajangmyeon in the city of Seoul.
Tomato and Beef Noodle from Daehangak

5. Daehangak

I learned about this place because one of my friends was a yoga instructor and she told me that make amazing Chinese food without any MSG and they grow a lot of the stuff on their organic farm. I was like yeah right because MSG is one of the three whites that make all food in Korea taste delicious (sung to the tune of Mary Poppin's a spoonful of sugar..."a spoonful of sugar, a spoonful of salt and an spoonful of MSG to make the jajangmyeon go down..." The food is amazing here and it has a brightness and lightness that I don't normally find at Korean Chinese places. I think that Korean Chinese food is comfort food. It is a bit heavy, but afterwards you feel content. The place is very old fashioned looking (it looks like a communist den). They are famous for their Chinese course menus that start around 25,000 won a person. They use tomatoes in a lot of their dishes including the amazing tomato beef noodle dish you see above (note...this is usually a seasonal item for summer). The jajangmyeon here is just ok. I don't think they hand make their noodles and the sauce is a tad soy-saucy (maybe this is where the MSG is needed). I would recommend that you go their for their other amazing dishes like their Sweet and Sour Pork Dish or their fried dumplings. Their tangsuyok is really nice here as well. Now, you can get their jajangmyeon, but I would recommend you get it as part of their coursed menu since all the dishes leading up to it, will really showcase their skill and organic ingredients. Crispy and the sauce has a bit more of a citrus flavor. Incredible stuff.

Daehangak
Click here to open on your phone in Google Maps Seoul Yongsangu Itaewon-dong 34-151
서울시 용산구 이태원동 34-151 2F (크라운 호텔 뒤편 크라운 약국 2층)
Telephone: 02-798-9990


O'mori Jajangmyeon 

4. O'mori by Jamsil and Jongno

Ok, there are a lot of O'mori Kimchi Chiggae places but they don't all do jajangmyeon. What I love about O'mori is that it is like the "greatest hits" of Korean food and make them homestyle. They are famous for their kimchi stew because they use 3-year old, aged kimchi. I know that they were involved in some scandals about their kimchi, but honestly, it is the best. The place does feel a bit like fast food but it is made by hand or made with artisan ingredients. The black bean sauce here for the jajangmyeon is subtle, a tiny bit sweet and they have pork pieces that are not just pork belly (which I am fine with because I don't feel I need to have that with every meal, however, the classic recipe calls for it). O'mori hand makes their noodles, so I feel they deserve to be considered one of the best places. A lot of places now don't hand pull them because labor cost is so high and it is easier to just make prepackaged sauce and prepackaged noodles, boil and serve. The problem is that the noodles don't have the texture, the chew and the different widths. I think because the noodles aren't all uniform, that it adds to the flavor of this dish.

O'mori Chiggae
Click here to open on your phone Seoul, Songpagu Seokchon-dong 183-2

서울시 송파구 석촌동 183-2
Phone: 02-423-0067



3. Donghui-ru 동회루 Handmade Jajamyeon and Sauce

This is a place that I have a love an hate relationship with. I love their handmade noodles and I love their homemade sauces. I love their mapo dubu (spicy tofu...which is said to resemble the face of an ugly pockfaced woman). It's a place with history that has been around a long time and it is a place that I will still go to, but...service is not very good and they will try to cheat you if you they have a chance. So...if you go in and you want to order a dish, make it clear that you want the small portion the lunch portion. If you come a bit later than 3 they will assume you want the anju version (the drinking side dish) which is like triple the size and costs a lot more. Regardless, the food is good (even if they will bring beers even if you had not asked for them.) I really enjoy the sauce on their jajangmyeon and their hand pulled noodles makes all the difference. It's the classic taste of jajangmyeon just done rice. Oh, the interior (like all of these places) is quite plain and communist. Just accept it. I mean if you want a royal interior then check out Din Tae Fung or Crystal Palace.

Donghui-ru 동회루
Click here to open the map on your phone. Seoul, Junggu Pildong 2ga 7-3
대한민국 서울시 중구 필동2가 7-3
Phone: 02-2265-1278

2. Gaehwa
Located by the Chinese Embassy makes them one of the defacto places for the Chinese to dine at. They have been doing this for 50 years, so the place hasn't really changed much in that time. It's wholesome, the black bean is black and savory. I would have to say that I feel this place has the best black bean sauce. It has a nice deep soy flavor without being too salty. It is well balanced by the pork bits in the sauce as well. This place also has amazing fried dumplings. Wow...they are so crispy and meat inside is has a nice flat garlicky flavor to it that melds well with the savory pork. Wow. Their Tangsuyok is really good here is well. I think they use glutinous rice flour because the texture is a bit fuller than others. Really good place for lunch or you can splurge for the full course which can go in the 100,000 (100 USD) a person. I also really like their fried rice because you get a bit of the black bean sauce on the side with it.

Gaehwa 개화

Click here to open on your phone Seoul, Junggu Myeongdong 2ga 107 
서울시 중구 명동2가 107
Phone: 02-776-0508
picture from theboy9368

1. Sinseonggak 신성각
For some strange reason, over by Gongdeok station there are just great food places. I mean there is the barbecue street and my favorite place for kimchi stew. Sinseonggak has been in Gongdeok since 1981 and they are doing things right. I love the lightness of their noodles, the flavor and density of their noodles and their sorta quirky, but threatening attitude. (Their rules of the house state you must get your own water, don't smoke, don't pay by card, don't bring your own alcohol.) Which is common knowledge, but I guess they don't want the distractions and want to focus on the food. Their key is the amount of vegetables that they use in their food. Lots of them. Their tangsuyok has lots of green onions and cucumbers and they are fresh so that adds an extra dimension to the dish. Their noodles are made in house and I feel the noodle maker has a secret for they silky yet chewy and light. And their jajangmyeon. It's all about the lots of veggies that they use in their sauce over all the perfectly cooked noodles. This place likes to add lots of cabbage, onions, and veggies to their sauce. It's what really makes them stand out. If you are looking for a great place with an old time feel. This is where you should go. Just follow the rules.

Sinseonggak 신성각
Click here to open the address on your phone Seoul, Mapo-gu Singongdeok-dong 2-463

서울시 마포구 신공덕동 2-463
Phone: 02-716-1210

Shin Mun gak
Honorable Mention

Shin Mun Gak (신문각)
This place had its hayday a long time ago. My recent visit was just ok. It seems to have lost the spark of what it was. I can't say that it was terrible. No, it wasn't it was fine and good and normal. The sauce is a bit lighter than it used to be and the noodles are just noodles (not handmade). I remember the fried rice tasting better as well. Anyway...not a terrible place...it's just that I need to save my calories for the good stuff. The interior is cool because it is so old but...because it is so old, it has lost the spark.

Shin Mun Gak (신문각)
Click here to open the address on your phone Seoul Jongno-gu Sinmun-ro 1ga 51
서울시 종로구 신문로1가 51
Phone: 02-736-3289

You can find all these restaurants on the New Best of Seoul Map here. The jajangmyeong places are the black colored marks.