>> Hang A Ri Noodle House 항아리 칼국수 | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday 19 December 2019

Hang A Ri Noodle House 항아리 칼국수


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (22 December 2023) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
Sure, there is another more popular location in Koreatown with the same name but unaffiliated, but walking into the serene conditions of this Garden Grove restaurant is almost like a wave of calm. While that more northerly location is a bit cold and modern inside, here they use tasteful wood accents and decor that give the feeling of entering a warm old cabin during the dead of winter. Whether it is hot or cool outside, these are great conditions to eat kal-guksu, a dish that originated as a summer meal.

The menu here is brief and to the point. Most diners coming in seem to know what they want already and order while sitting down. Kal-guksu (칼국수) is in the Korean name of the restaurant and the first item on the menu, a hint of where to start, but a dozen or so other options do provide the opportunity for a few meal varieties.

No matter what you order, every meal here begins with two bowls rather than the usual suspects of small plate banchan. Barley rice and yeolmu kimchi (above) come in those bowls, the latter made from the greens of young summer radish. This is a bit more crunchy than cabbage-based kimchis, and feels very summery. Along with the sesame oil that you will find on the table, and maybe some gochujang, you can make your own little bowl of bibimbap before the orders start arriving.

Wanting as much variation between dishes as possible, an order of momil guksu ($9.99, below) began the meal. They describe this as "buckwheat noodles and vegetables with spicy sauce" which is not a lie, but it is so much more than this, a complex array of tastes and crisp textures from the bed of greens. Before getting started, mix the metal bowl up well to spread out the ingredients.

You sometimes find this dish deconstructed, with the sauce on the side for dipping. The cooked buckwheat soba noodles are enjoyable to eat this way and that arrangement ensures you get the bites and combinations you want. Thankfully, the chef here knows exactly the bowl they want to offer and does it exquisitely.

While the next few months may be quite chilly and not call for it, it is hard to imagine a meal here during warm weather that does not include the momil guksu.

Compared to that cold noodle salad served mildly spicy and very refreshing, the house special kal-guksu ($10.99, above and below) could not be a more opposite pairing, just what was desired on this afternoon. This pleasing bowl of savory seafood soup is full of the chewy house-made noodles that give the dish its name, literally "knife noodles" that are hand cut.

For good reason, the noodle soup is part of almost everyone's meal here. Big groups might order two or three portions, which are put into increasingly large vessels to be ladled out to everyone in smaller bowls at the table. The few solo diners that were noticed all had the same posture, hunched over and almost inhaling their warming bowl.

From what can be discerned by folks with zero knowledge of Korean but with the ability to put three Korean characters into a Google image search, hangari (항아리) is a clay pot that is used for various cooking and presenting of foods. Sometimes it is sealed when preparing kimchi, sometimes smaller ones can be brought to the table containing side dishes. Either way, the reference gives further credit to the feeling here of a warm old cabin.

Sit back in your repurposed diner chair, and plot your next visit. The ramen dukbokee that was noticed on its way to a young couple's table sure looks tempting. Or maybe some of those beautiful fried dumplings. Is it summer yet?

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