The Red, the Black and the Wriggly

Grey, hard, straggly and vapid. 

Glossy, pliant, slick and utterly slurpilicious. 

In a transformation àla Cinderella in designer garb sans soot, the difference between uncooked and cooked dangmyeon couldn’t be starker.

I recently wrote about the Korean sweet potato noodle dangmyeon, christening it The Super Noodle for being fat-free, gluten-free and general good fun.  Here are three ways to eat dangmyeon, and where you’ll find them.

The Black:  Jjimdak, chicken and vegetables in a spicy soy marinade

In Korean, jjim means steamed.  Dak means chicken (cue the chicken and dak jokes).  Jjimdak is a classic Korean dish of chicken, vegetables, cylindrical rice cakes and dangmyeon braised in soy sauce spiked with dried chilies. 

The jjimdak at Stra Pocha (19 Everton Road, Strathfield) is Andong-style and contains an entire chicken.  Andong is a South Korean city famous for jjimdak; like Italy, South Korea is peppered with regional cuisines. 

Stra Pocha’s $40 serve comes on an impressive 35cm-wide platter.  The advertised “whole chicken” is chopped into pieces with bone in (including the bishop’s nose), and commingles with a host of other ingredients such as rice cakes, no fewer than 8 vegetables, dried chilies and dangmyeon.  All these glide around in a sweetish, spicy soy sauce that totally permeates the noodles.  Given all that, a soy sauce moustache is a small price to pay.

The Red:  Budae jjigae, Korean army base stew

Traditional Korean cuisine adheres to the ancient notion of food as medicine, using foods with healing or fortifying properties to enrich the body.

I’ll make it clear from the start: budae jjigae isn’t one of those perfectly composed dishes fundamental to that time-honoured practice.  Budae means army base.  Jjigae means stew.

Created only relatively recently in the 1950s, budae jjigae combines Spam, hot dogs and baked beans (US Army handouts during the Korean war) with a versatile range of Korean ingredients such as Korean pepper paste, kimchi, rice cakes, a range of vegetables, bean curd, instant noodles and dangmyeon.  It may not be traditional, but it sure is delectable!

At Doo Ri BBQ Restaurant (136/20 Albert Road, Strathfield), for $35 you can try this ultimate fusion dish, complete with casserole pot boiling at your table.

The Wriggly:  Japchae, sweet potato noodles with beef

Attend a Korean party and you’re likely to find fellow guests slurping up japchae, non-spicy stir-fried noodles that make a popular party dish.  

The main ingredient, dangmyeon, absorbs the flavourings of soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.  The noodles are combined with beef bulgogi and vegetables like spinach, carrots and onions which purists cook separately before adding to the noodles.

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