Food is my absolute favorite way to experience a culture. The spices, the textures, the unique ingredients all make my wanderlusting heart go aflutter. Fortunately, living in Houston makes many faraway lands and cultures easily accessible. Currently on the agenda? Korean food. By word of mouth (and plenty of it), I furthered my Korean food quest at Korean Noodle House, a mom and pop restaurant nestled in Houston’s very own Koreatown.
Korean Noodle House is undoubtedly “blink and you’ll miss it” small; it helps that the renovated home is painted bright yellow, because besides that, there aren’t many other defining traits, so keep your eyes peeled! Upon entering, you’re instantly greeted with a friendly “Annyeonghaseyo!” and the intoxicating smell of something delicious frying – which upon further investigation, turned out to be mandu/dumplings. Within moments of being seated, a modest bowl of kimchi is placed on the table. I’ve definitely had my fair share of kimchi, but this was no ordinary kimchi. Let me just say, it now holds the title for the best I’ve ever had! Normally, in a Korean restaurant you are greeted with an endless parade of banchan, from kimchi, seaweed, tofu, the side dishes are usually endless. However, upon first bite of this kimchi, the other little dishes were not missed.
I went in having heard fairy tales of the Haemul Pajeon, a seafood green onion pancake, so ordering that was a given. Please, I am begging you, do not deprive yourself of the majesty of this seafood pancake. It was like biting into a crispy, octopus and green onion laden, cloud. Next order of business? The main course. My friend played it safe with the popular kimchi fried rice, topped with tasty bulgogi, but something that appealed to my adventurous side was calling my name…
Mul-Naengmyeon is a soup of beef broth, noodles, pickled veggies, egg, thinly sliced pork, and… ice? Yes, ice. I knew I had to order it; 1) My inner adventurer would never forgive me if I didn’t, and 2) the weather in Houston is not at all forgiving so something cold would definitely be a treat. I was presented with a beautiful chilled bowl of arrowroot noodles submerged in a clear, icy beef broth topped with pickled radish and cucumber, thinly sliced meat, a boiled egg, and a teensy side of doubt. I took a sip of the broth and admittedly, had second thoughts. Thankfully, I discovered the bottle of vinegar and saucer of spicy mustard that accompanied my dish. With the addition of the sweet tang of the vinegar and the bite of the mustard, the soup was instantly brought to life! Each bite of the perfectly pickled radish, delicate broth, hearty noodles, and ice (again, yes… ice) was more refreshing than the last. I had done it; I found the cure for a Houston heat. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it definitely took the edge off.
Korean Noodle House has easily claimed a place on my list of favorite finds. Maybe it’s the delicious food, maybe it’s the homey feel of the place, or maybe it’s the posters of Korean popstars staring down at you while you eat. Honestly, it’s probably all of the above. Granted, the fact that they have a punch card, with your tenth meal getting you a side of free dumplings, doesn’t hurt either.