Monday, March 16, 2015

Gami Udon, Hongdae

Several years ago, my co-workers and I used to live in Hongdae in a pleasant little alley called Fuck Street. Okay, so of course that wasn't its official name but someone (a modern day Picasso, no doubt) had spray-painted the word FUCK in huge block letters across a wall near the entrance of the alley, and thus it was branded in our hearts as Fuck Street forevermore.

The good thing about Fuck Street was that although being somewhat hidden away from the public eye, it was still relatively close to all the happening places in Hongdae, including lots of great restaurants. One such restaurant, literally just a single street away, was Gami Udon. When it first opened up, we could not for the life of us figure out why it was so popular. Regardless of the time of day, there was always a swarm of people milling around outside waiting for a seat. Finally, curiosity got the better of us one day and we decided to try it. And BOOM. The answer was clear within seconds of the food reaching our table.

Gami Udon, as you've probably guessed from the name, specialises in one thing -- udon noodles. But these are no ordinary, run-of-the-mill udon noodles. We're talking handmade, nay, handcrafted udon. (Because making noodles that taste that delicious should seriously be considered an art form.) The udon is freshly made in-store and the texture is amazing. It beats the pants off of regular udon served at other restaurants and is quite possibly the best I've ever had in Seoul. If you're at the restaurant at the right time, you can catch the noodles being rolled out near the window by the lovely staff in their cute Japanese-style uniforms.

The first time I went with my co-workers, we struggled a fair bit with the menu as there wasn't anything in English and it was one of those cases where you point randomly at something and cross your fingers that it won't turn out to be indigestible. But now that my Korean has improved (slightly -__-), I can finally understand the menu better (slightly -__-).

The top part of the menu lists the types of udon dishes they have and is split into two: hot on the left and cold on the right. Below them are the sets where you can get your noodles with a side of tempura or fried chicken.

Hot udon (from left to right):
Kake -- basic soup udon, 5,000 won
Wakame -- udon with soup and seaweed, 6, 000 won
Tsukimi - udon with soup and a raw egg, 6,000 won
Kamatama - no soup, but a special sauce made of egg and soy, 7,000 won

Cold udon (left to right, all 6,000 won)
Bukkake -- udon with dashi sauce
Zaru -- udon with dried, shredded seaweed on top
Cold -- The menu literally just says "naeng" which means "cold" in Korean, so I'm guessing maybe it's a fusion of udon with Korean style naengmyeon broth?
Shoyu -- soy sauce

On a recent visit there, my friend and I decided to be ultimate dwaejis and got 2 sets: tsukimi udon with tempura (9,000 won), and bukkake udon with fried chicken (8,500 won).

While the tsukimi was nice, and I imagine it must be perfect on freezing cold winter nights when you need something to warm up your insides, for me the real star of the show was the bukkake:

The noodles were deliciously chewy, and the broth was savoury with just enough of a sweet tinge to balance it out. That and it had a name akin to something out of a porn film, so it was just plain fun to say out loud. XD

It's odd, since it's all the same udon, but I suppose the heat of the tsukimi soup caused the noodles to become softer, while the coolness of the bukkake broth kept the udon firmer, and a firmer texture with noodles is something that I personally prefer.

Apart from the noodles having a most satisfying texture, they were also crazy long and it was extremely enjoyable attempting to slurp them all up in one mouthful.

Yes, that's one single strand of udon.. and doubled over the chopsticks too, so you can just imagine how long the whole thing is. o__O

Food from the sets that also deserve some love:

Deliciously crispy batter on pumpkin, sweet potato, and prawn tempura

Crispy on the outside, tender, succulent chicken seasoned with salt and pepper on the inside

Apart from the food being incredibly scrumptious, another reason for the constant queues is probably due to the restaurant being quite small, with less than 10 tables.

This keeps the lines going during peak hours, but if you have the patience to wait it out, I'm sure you'll find that the food is worth it!

Gami Udon
Hours: 12pm - 9pm (break between 3pm-5pm), closed Mondays
Address: 서울시 마포구 서교동 346-31 (346-31 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul)
Directions: From Hongdae Station, exit 9, take the first left and follow the road all the way around the bend until you reach the part where it splits into 3. Take the road on your left, a bit like making a semi U-turn. Follow this down a few metres and Gami Udon will be on your left.

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