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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Myung Dong Kal Guk Su: Get the Dumpling

I was so happy to find a decent Korean place near Long Beach, which I've been spending a lot of time in lately. Myung Dong Kal Guk Su in Lakewood has one of the best mandu, or dumpling, I've had in LA. I was ecstatic because I've always had a hard time finding a dumpling I liked even though mandu is one of my favorite things to eat. Myung Dong is a chain of restaurants with locations in Koreatown and Tustin, although I've never been to any of these locations. It specializes in kal guk su, literally translating to knife noodles because the noodles are hand-made and cut with knives.

Why did I love the dumpling? It had pork and scallions, all seasoned with some garlic, salt and likely some sesame oil and sesame seeds. It's usually next to impossible to find pork mandu that doesn't smell porky in a bad way, so I was pleasantly surprised to find these to be delicious morsels of un-smelly goodness.

The namesake kal guk su -- handmade noodles in a thick chicken (and probably dried anchovy) broth topped with sliced zucchini, onions, potatoes and optional spicy seasoning -- was good but not as good as my Koreatown favorite, Madang Gooksu.

Ditto for the kong guk su -- noodles with a broth made from ground soy beans. Add some salt and it makes for a refreshing summer noodle dish. Even though it's not summer, I'm such a fan that I decided to try this rendition. The restaurant offered hecho noodles made from a kind of seaweed that's good for you. And it added some black sesame seeds to the broth so the color had a tinge of black sesame. It came with the standard sliced cucumbers and half a tomato.

The broth wasn't nearly as flavorful as Madang Gooksu's version, which I've waited in line for on some of the hottest days of the year.

Now on to the all-important kimchi review. The place offered two kinds -- white kimchi and keotjeori, which is napa cabbage kimchi that hasn't been fermented for as long as the regular kimchi we're most familiar with. Because of that, it has a more raw taste. I usually like this kind of kimchi but this one was too garlicky even for me.

The other kimchi was a white napa cabbage kimchi that is so called because it isn't red from the red pepper flakes usually added. So it's basically pickled cabbage. It was mild and good.

This place also has bibim guk su, the same seaweed noodles smothered in a sweet and spicy red sauce and topped with cucumbers.

I'll return to try some other soups offered, such as ttukmanduguk, dumpling soup with rice cakes and hanchihoe guk su, a delicacy noodle dish with sashimi smothered in a spicy sauce.

In the meantime, I enjoyed the extra order of mandu I got to go. I'll definitely be returning for more of those.

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