Unique Culinary Traditions in the Capital of Korean Spirit

A short day trip to Andong got me all excited like a little child. With the population just around 160,000, Andong seemed another medium-sized city in Gyeongsangbuk-do, far away from all the jazz in big Seoul. But Andong is more than that. As soon as I got off the bus, everywhere it reads: Andong, the Capital of Korean Spirit!

Entrance to Andong Gu Market

It turned out that Andong is considered home of Korean Confucianism. In another words, a place that may just be responsible for modern Korea’s patriarchal system. We can talk more about that in another post, but first off: food. Andong folks are strictly devoted in keeping their traditions alive. The practice of jesa is a prominent tradition that is followed by many yangban families in this area.

According to Professor Kim Ki-hee, expert of food and nutrition as well as a member of yangban family of Andong Kim, noodles were served to guests visiting traditional rituals held at home. This could be the origin of Andong Guksi, the type of noodle soup that gained national fame and made its way up to northern Seoul, where Guksi Streets have developed in neighbourhoods of Jongno-gu and Seongbuk-gu. Guksi is simply a Gyeongsang-do dialect of guksu, meaning noodles.

The Noodle Soup Served at Family Rituals

Noodle soup with perilla seed broth

So what’s the difference between Gyeongsang-do-style guksi and typical kalguksu that is prevalent throughout the country? There is no textbook recipe to Korean noodle soup, but one thing they probably have in common is that the dough is hand-rolled and hand-cut with knife, hence the name kalguksu. In Andong, they attempt to roll out thin sheets of dough to make long, slim pieces of noodle. They also add bean powder which yields the subtle yellow colour in noodle strips. The broth is traditionally made by simmering beef soup bone, in contrast to seafood broth that is popular in other parts of the country.

I arrived on an early morning bus, and most shops were still closed or getting ready for the big day ahead when I strolled by at Andong Traditional Market. Being famous for jjimdak (braised chicken), the market is filled with dozens of jjimdak restaurants, all claiming that they are wonjo. Although I was tempted, I knew what I wanted for breakfast. A noodle joint across from the market also had not started the day when I visited before 10am. I waited in one of their ondol rooms and it wasn’t too late until a table was set for my noodle soup with perilla seed broth.

Millet rice, for lettuce-wraps and leftover soup

As expected, the broth is thick with crushed perilla seeds. The thin, yellowish noodles were a bit more firm than regular flour noodles used in common kalguksu. The sides include leafy greens and dwenjang dips, which seemed odd to see the usual accompaniment for Korean BBQ appealed next to simple noodle soup. Another out-of-the-ordinary addition was steamed millet rice. A small bowl of rice with tiny millet was meant to be added to the broth after you are finished with the noodles. A satisfying meal for under $10, with a valuable experience of traditional Andong soul food.

Golmokan Songuksu 골목안손국수
207-1 Nammun-dong, Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do