Monday, March 06, 2006

Brief Respite from Bummer Theme


We're now just a few weeks shy of six months here in L.A. I still haven't registered my car and gotten California plates; I've been driving around with my old Connecticut plates. I get the sense that the CT plates cause everyone driving behind me to think I'm some rube.

Anyhow, a few Saturdays ago I did get the smog check required for California registration from a nice Armenian guy in Little Armenia: the Intrepid passed. This past Saturday, I got my 3000 mile oil and filter change. I generally pass my weekends in this manner, ministering to my car. I am, however, proud to say that my car has not had one car wash since we've been in L.A. The Intrepid is thoroughly smeared with bird shit and L.A. funk: I may be driving around a giant H5N1 petri dish.

So, Koreatown is really huge. It's like being in Korea. I like Koreatown. I wish the people there liked me a little more. But, anyway, tonight was our first gook soo experience, at, appropriately, Ma Dang Gook Soo:
Gook soo, especially as interpreted here, is a marvelous thing, flat and slightly stretchy, about the size of fettuccine but more fragile somehow, knife-cut from a thin sheet of rolled dough. The basic gook soo here -- identified on the menu as "handmade noodle" -- is served in a broth based on dried anchovies, clear and slightly earthy, garnished with seaweed, kimchi or bits of meat, concealing a few chunks of boiled potato, and adding a presence, a depth, to the noodles, which seem almost to melt into it.
Jonathan Gold, Counter Intelligence.

I think I like gook soo better than soba, which is saying something for me. One of my favorite restaurants back in New York was Sobaya in the East Village; that place was always packed with hipsters and the soba was mighty tasty. But it was a bit too hip and happening for my tastes. The interior was very chic. Not as chic as the super high-end, offensively stylish Honmura An soba place, but still very chic. Ma Dang Gook Soo is in a mini mall and has a big plastic sign next to the register that says "CASH ONLY". There is a big fat beige pay phone on the front counter, just like the ones in Korea. A large faded photo on one wall shows a village at dawn or dusk, with chickens wandering across paths. Above the front counter are rows of faded but clean square photos of various noodle dishes, all against a teal blue background. They are not backlit. It is a cozy, homey place. And on this cold, rainy night, the milky, earthy anchovy gook soo broth was just the thing to comfort me and help me forget the wet, soulless streets outside. I felt like I was in a place where chickens could walk around in peace, until they were put into the gook soo pot. The broth and the flat, thick noodles were much heartier than soba--simpler, and appealingly plain. I know I am making too much of the surroundings in which I had the gook soo compared to the soba shops, but the distinction seemed clear. Anyway, I have a new favorite noodle.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you never been to Sakagura (43rd b/w 2nd and 3rd)? Beats Sobata and Honmura An hands down. Next time you're in NY...

MK

Anonymous said...

That was meant to say "Sobaya" not "-ta"

hh said...

are you going to get a vanity plate that says "octopus" or perhaps "i (heart symbol) chan"?
or pay more for the one with the whale tail background? haha.

carol said...

gotta say, i feel pretty alienated when i'm in koreatowns (nyc or chicago). actually, it was only more intensified when i actually visited korea for the first time, a few years back. and, i even speak some very very decent korean. having said all that, i'm with you on the gook soo. tasty grub!

ivanomartin said...

Y'all should do some shopping at one of the Korean supermarkets. We used to go to the HK Market on Western. Also, you should take a trip sometime to one of the 99 Markets out in Rosemead/Monterey Park/Montebello.

s.kim/boston said...

awww, koreatown! one of the big reasons i'd consider moving out there to l.a. the food, mostly. good times, remembering our trip in korea! so strange to think that actually happened, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

reading this post, it's funny how when you're so wedded to an anglocized spelling of a korean word, seeing it spelled differently is really weird! I was like, what's gook soo? And then I was like, oh it's what I always visualized spelled like kook su. Or something like that. It's like when I see menus that say jap chae, but I have it written down on my recipe card as chap chae. I think the LA spelling throws me off because it says gook, and that just doesn't sound too good. Anyway, it's so odd, because who's to say what the right spelling is anyway? It's like when you go to Asia and people are wearing t-shirts with english words that make no sense whatsoever. Or when I went to my japanese hair salon in new york for what was advertised on a sign as an "eyerush perm". Hee hee.
anyway, if you haven't tried it already, you may want to open your noodle horizons and have some naeng myun (chewy thin buckwheat noodles in cold broth--make sure to add vinegar).
Please tell me my DMV advice was somewhat helpful...

-LC