Myung Dong Kal Gook Soo
103 – 4501 North Road
As the evening air outside begins to descend into a temperature zone that requires more layering of clothing and household duties that require preparations for the coming winter season, it marks the beginning of something that I enjoy a lot – hot food, especially those of the “soupy” category. Beefy stews, hearty vegetable soups, bowls of noodles in flavorful broth and so on. Autumn/winter comfort food at its finest. Plus, with the incoming crop of this season’s vegetables, many of which over the past few years I’ve grown to actually like more of, it makes for fun times in the home kitchen or eating out.
Over the years, I’ve found on my travels abroad that those nations which have a tendency to experience harsher winters – full of freezing temperatures, perhaps suspect household insulation but with a rich food culture – do satisfy my cravings for warm/hot edible delights. I can still remember the first time I visited South Korea over a decade ago, it was March. But with bone chilling temperatures coupled with a heavy weight of dense, moist air which made the prevailing air temperature feel many times colder, it hit me like nothing I’ve ever felt before. My immediate impulse was to warm up and quickly with something to eat. And on that particular occasion, I ended up in a little spot that served up kalguksu. Its an experience I’ve never forgotten and ever since, when I feel the chill in the air and have a craving for comforting Korean food, it reminds me of that time.
For those inclined to venture into what is perhaps the most concentrated area on the Burnaby/Coquitlam border for Korean businesses (especially restaurants), this unsuspecting cafeteria-like eatery known as Myung Dong Kal Gook Soo, is one that you probably wouldn’t find on your own unless by pure happenstance. For aside from a kiosk selling coffee and other sweet desserts nearby, the inside of this mini shopping mall is a collection of stores selling various other household products and professional services (I believe I saw some travel agency and a dental office). Then taking up perhaps the biggest floor space is this business. Despite its slightly unexpected location, I always find the tables are occupied with hungry customers, so apparently its quite known in the area.
I have been a few times now, sampled a variety of dishes but why venture too far off the path when you can go for the heart of its menu and its namesake, the hand-cut wheat noodles. In a slightly cloudy pork-based broth that has a mild flavor profile, not overly oily/fatty nor overly sodium enriched, it reminded me of the tastes I’ve experienced in other establishments. Garnished with some sauteed beef and other vegetables on top, the noodles themselves were thinner than I experienced at say Won Jo and less “chalky” tasting as well. I get the feeling that perhaps they are using a more commercially-produced noodle product here. Regardless, they were cooked well, not overly so but with the high temperature of the soup, its best to eat faster if you can to prevent any further “stretching” of the noodles. Portion size is quite large, more than enough for one very hungry grown man. Frankly I think it would be a challenge to attempt to finish off the whole bowl, soup included.
You can also try a mandu (dumpling) dish of the same if you prefer. Again, no shortage of volume as each package was more than a good spoonful, I’d even advise cutting them in half to eat. Topped this time with some strips of Korean gim, egg and green onions, the soup tasted lighter, perhaps from not having been infused with the starch coming off the noodles in this case. If I had to weigh the two against each other, I’d have to opt for the kalguksu as number one. But then again, it might be those memories of yesteryear clouding my judgement. 🙂