As when tasting wine, sucking in a mouthful of air while eating hot noodles enhances the flavors as they hit your palate. The special, if sometimes sloppy, way of inhaling air and noodle simultaneously to achieve maximum noodle gratification is something I like to call slurpability. Noodle-heads love siphoning up slurpy strands of carbs.
Besides the slurp factor, other characteristics are key for great noodles. For example, al dente, that just-right-bite, is critical for Italian noodling. The satisfying suppleness is described as “Q” when discussing particular Chinese noodles.
However, not all noodles strive for those delicious distinctions. I’m thinking now of the curiously challenging chewiness of jjolmyeon—a Korean dish that translates to “chewy noodles.” With jjolmyeon, the chef strives for maximum chewiness. And when I say chewy, I mean almost rubber band chewy. This is a springy rice noodle, but unlike any you’ve had before.
Duri Snack is what I describe as a “hole in the mall” because it’s a tiny, plain Korean eatery located inside the Korean Greenland Supermarket in Lake Balboa. And, it just happens to hawk a really good jjolmyeon.
A heap of cold, thin, rice noodles is thickly coated with gochujang, sugar, vinegar, possibly Asian pear, rice wine, sesame oil, and garlic. Crunchy soybeans, bits of white onion, daikon, and shredded carrots are strewn throughout the mound. Slivers of cucumber are spared the spicy, sweet, and pungent sauce to inject blasts of freshness. Teetering at the noodle apex is exactly half a boiled egg.
This jjolmyeon is almost comically elastic. Masticating these noodles is akin to performing jiu-jitsu with your jaw. But with each chomp, more flavor from the sauce is released. Plus, the tag teaming textures of chewy noodles and crunchy vegetables are pleasurable. It makes the jaw workout worth it.
So the next time you find yourself contemplating the complexities of the common bowl of carbs, I suggest grabbing a bowl of jjolmyeon to help you chew on it all.
Duri Snack, 17643 Sherman Way, Lake Balboa, (818) 881-3160