Korea’s original, old school delivery food. Decades before Deliveroo. The dish? Jajangmyun – or black bean noodles.
Korean food has looooong being on trend.
It’s had its meteoric rise spearheaded by the now ubiquitously known ChiMEK – Chicken + MEKJU (or beer, in Korean) – or in other words, really freaking tasty fried chicken and beer. Korean fried chicken has been long a thing these days, and rightfully so, because it’s so darn good.
But did you know about jajangmyun?
I bet you haven’t (here in the U.K. anyway). We never see this dish and I realised how this dish needs to come to light immediately.
It’s the original street food in Seoul. Long a staple quick lunch for office workers swallowing a meal, this noodle dish originated from Korean cuisine fusing with Chinese flavours.
But before we get to it, let’s not forget the wider cast of Korea’s amazing staple dishes.
We’re so into these easy-to-make and most importantly, swift, meals you can do at home – we had to show you them all.
Bibimbap. (Bibim = to stir, bap = rice)
How about bibimbap. The classic korean rice stir through, with rice, various mountain veg (or if not indigenous to Korea, then whatever garden-fresh veg that you’ve got to hand), marinated beef, topped with a fried egg and stirred through with a sweet and spicy red pepper sauce.
We make our quick and dirty version of this at home in as much time as it takes to quick chop some veg, fry an egg, and cook through some mince.
Hemul pajun. (Hemul = seafood, pajun = pancake)
What an easy and quick dish. Think fruitti di mare (mix of scallop, mussel, squid, shrimp) fried in a crispy savoury pancake batter. Serve with a side of dipping soy + vinegar.
Nang myun. (Nang = cold, myun = noodles)
Ever had cold beef broth and noodles?
Probably a weird concept for those not familiar with cold noodles, but trust me, on a hot day, do as the Koreans have long been doing. Korea is a country of extreme seasons – with boiling humid summers, and frigid, snowy winters (and lovely temperate transitions as well). And when it’s hot, there is one dish that every Korean knows of.
The temp just hit 36 degrees Celsius, or c.100 degrees F where I live in London, and I just had to have something cold and refreshing to eat for dinner, so I convinced my wife to try this dish.
The broth from scratch is the most “complex” bit – it’s a mix of beef broth, radish pickle, pear juice and a bit of kimchi brine, boiled and then set to cool in the fridge and served on ice. It’s got to be served super cold, over cold buckwheat noodles, with cold slices of beef and topped with a cold hard boiled egg.
We tried our best with the broth, given that we didn’t have most of the ingredients – and we could tell. Next time we’ll try again with all the ingredients or order the pre-made broth packets.
Sounds weird but sooo moorish and delightful on a hot day. Think salty savoury with sweet and briny.
Jajangmyun. (jajang = “mixing”, myun = noodles)
Here we are, the dish of the post at last.
When I was a kid, I’d visited Seoul Korea in the mid eighties and again in the mid nineties. The latter visit I was there for 3 months on a summer high school internship at an international bank, and I stayed with my grandma for the 3 months.
One day she ordered lunch and had food delivered. This was the days before deliveroo, just eat, or any other food app or delivery service, and I remember the food would come by motorcycle. This fella had a large box on the back of his cycle, and in it, various slots for food trays – and on each tray, bowls of noodles, the smaller bowls of black bean sauce, and the various side dishes all covered in cling film. Not in takeaway styrofoam or cardboard, but in the actual bowls that you’d eat out of, and once you were done, you’d leave the tray out an this fella would return at some point later in the day to retrieve the tray.
It was the original food delivery service. And it was amazing.
Years later, recently, I had a craving for this dish, and I realised – while Korean food has really taken off recently, I haven’t seen much, if any, about this classic street dish in London.
We made it using this recipe and a mix of own ingredients and a sauce packet. My goodness, it is so hearty and moorish, I can’t recommend it enough.
Top tip is to get a good cut of pork shoulder – so it’s tender and soft through the cooking.
So I hope you enjoy these personal top recommendations of easy to make delicious Korean street feasts! If you love the flavour profile of Korean food, you gotta check these dishes out, and do it at home – you can customize your dishes to meet your tastes (for me, that’s always extra meat : ))