jjajangmyeon loving at chung gung, 청궁 중국집


i've only had four previous ones before.
one left a bitter taste in my mouth and the rest were alright - almost forgettable.

but this one was like no other.
the only one that made me crave for more.
(..at least thus far!)

the luscious, hearty dark savory thick sauce that clung lovingly onto the smooth, chewy noodles, as i slurped satisfyingly. 


it was one of the yummiest 짜짱면s i've ever had.

truth be told - the two times that i've been to south korea, not once have i ever considered trying this iconic korean chinese cuisine. only one reason that can justify the situation - there were just so many delicious korean dishes that i had to get my hands on. but knowing now what this noodles could taste like, i'd loved to try it in korea.

짜장면 (jjajangmyeon) dreams are made of white wheat flour noodles (수타면) crafted entirely by hand, topped with a black soybean paste, 춘장 (chun jang) which is made from roasted soybeans sweetened with caramel. the sauce is loaded with the good stuff of ground meat (typically pork), diced onions, potatoes, thickened with potato starch or cornstarch. for a touch of crisp freshness, raw cucumber sticks finish this hearty bowl of noodles. the supporting roles of pickled yellow radish (단무지) and raw onions accompanied with a little chun jang sauce are a must. the occasional guest stars are diced zucchini, daikon and/or seafood. 



it gradually gained popularity as jjajangmyeon makes its way into many menus across the different korean restaurants. one of which is 청궁 (chung gung) restaurant. located in koreatown in ampang kl, its authenticity can be vouched by the many koreans making a beeline for this restaurant.

it may be a bit of a challenge to find the restaurant since it is on the second floor but look out of hanwoori and you're almost there when you've found the eatery's sign. as you enter its main door, its decor was a bit dated as the space was fully clad in finished wood as the furnishing was kept to a minimum. oddly in retrospect, it was the same simplicity, traditional and authentic qualities that  the dishes embraced in its execution.



even while the menu lured me with the extensive options, it was the typical almost inseparable complementary trio that i desired the most, the combination that has made its several tempting appearances my favorite variety show, 런닝맨.



짜장면 : jja-jang myeon | stir-fried noodles with chinese bean sauce (rm 15)



this bowl-full of goodness is what jjajangmyeon dreams are made of. the best part is - it's dream turned into reality. a pair of scissors were provided to cut the noodles, which may be shrugged off by some but i thought it was a nice added touch of authenticity. the lip-smacking black bean sauce balanced with a light sweetness were thickened just enough to coat the perfectly cooked noodles that had a slight bite. exactly how i'd imagine jjajangmyeon to be.


despite the lack of minced meat in the sauce it was satisfying as i easily 'inhaled' the noodles with gusto - almost a slick velvety mouth feel as i tasted the light savory, umami flavor. occasionally alternating with the crisp pickled danmuji to restart afresh again with more noodles. it was almost addictive that i crave for another bite as i chomped down on one.


짬뽕 : jjam-bbong | spicy seafood noodle soup (rm 17)


the fierce battle of preference between the two korean chinese signature dishes - the luscious jjajangmyeon vs. the fiery jjambbong has left some fans of korean chinese food divided into two camps - mainly dependent on the mood and weather, really. i very much prefer the third category - a proud supporter of 짬짜면 jjam-ja-myeon where these two very different flavor profiles of jjajangmyeon and jjambbong (separately, of course) complement each other in the most unexpected ways.


the fiery red soup of jjambbong base was slightly spicy sweetened by onions (both green and yellow) and fresh seafood contained the softened noodles took on the role to subdue the heat of the hot pepper powder that only left a warm sensation on the taste buds. the noodles were softer than its counterpart in jjajangmyeon and wished it was done slightly under.


탕수육 : tangsoo yook | fried pork with sweet and sour sauce (small | rm 35)


if you're expecting is the tomato-base sweet & sour pork that we grew up eating, you're in for some surprise. the korean take on this chinese favorite is different in almost every aspect from the texture of the pork down to the sauce. the thickly cut pork fingers lightly battered, deep fried for that familiar slightly crispy texture (could definitely have been crispier) encasing the moist, chunkier meat. on the other hand, the light sweet & sour sauce started with a plum-like sweetness base mingling with the light tartness of lemon for a citrus-y finish, served separately - typically poured over the plate of fried pork or dipping is also an option.




it was good especially since it wasn't cloyingly sweet but my preference still leaned towards the original chinese interpretation. the price tag is slightly steep but it is enough to be shared by 2-3 persons.



after our delicious encounter at 청궁 "chung gung", we finally understood why 짬짜면-탕수육 "jjam-jja-myeon-tang-soo-yook" combo is a match made in flavor heaven- tingling almost every taste buds and playing on the textural difference. start off with the hearty jjajangmyeon accompanied with the crispy, meaty sweet & sour pork and occasionally cut through the savoriness with the pickled yellow radish. then, bring it on with the spicy jjambbong only to seek for a relief from the heat by returning to the black bean sauce noodles once more.

my current benchmark for delicious bowl of 짜장면 goes to 청궁 중국집 "chung gung korean chinese restaurant". in fact, whenever these black bean noodles make its brief appearance on a few of the 런닝맨 episodes, i drooled as i watched longingly and immediately wished i was in chung gung gobbling down the craving with a huge smile. i'd say bring at least a friend to share the must-have duo of of jjam-jja-myeon. but if you can't, jjajangmyeon may be enough to entice you to return for more.


chung gung | location
c 6-, c7- d.e malaysia
1, jalan 1
one ampang avenue
68000 ampang
{opens mon - sun: 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
except for 2nd & 4th thursdays of every month}


disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


mr dakgalbi at mont kiara


august 2012.

the one that left a lasting impression.

it was on a summer evening where the warm season began its farewell serenade through the gentle breeze in anticipation of the romantic season of fall. 

having just returned from our breathtaking visit to nami island, the timing was uncanny. the sun was beginning its descent as i made my way into the huge restaurant. i didn't get a name but wished that i did. 

the sizzling sound was the beginning of the delicious scent that wafted throughout the restaurant that was enough to almost rouse drooling. it looked temptingly delicious, seducing me with its vibrant fiery colors. 


that was my first taste of 닭갈비. 
it was glorious and it had left me in longing for its deliciousness once again. 

닭길비.
romanized /dak.gal.bi/ or /dalk.gal.bi/
noun. 
stir fry marinated diced chicken in spicy pepper paste [고추장 /goc.hu.jang/], sliced cabbage, scallions, onions, sweet potato and rice cakes [떡 /tteok/] on a hot plate.

background
a specialty food for the city of chuncheon {추천}, gangwon{강원} province, an inexpensive beer snack [안주 /an.ju/] to substitute the expensive bbq dishes. 

its popularity.
an alley in chuncheon with a high concentration of dakgalbi eateries called dakgalbi alley {닭갈비 걸목}. there is even an annual autumn festival since 2005 dedicated to this local favorite.


i was beyond excited to try out mr dakgalbi in sohoKL, the next koreatown of kl after the original counterpart in ampang. 


as i entered the dakgalbi eatery, it quickly reminded me of any other korean restaurants that i have previously been. every table had a mandatory hot plate aka dakgalbi pan, ready to go in a moment's notice. even the utensils and napkins can be found in the drawers on one of the sides of the tables.


the walls were clad in vibrant and bright colored posters of animated characters against the clay brick walls and wooden panels. kpop music videos were playing on the tv at the back on mute while the staff bustled from one table to another, stir frying the meat-vegetable in the hot pan.


with a concept that was similar to teppanyaki, it was unavoidable to have the dakgalbi aroma cling to you after the meal. but with the apron provided, you may smell it but not look it especially with the accidental gochujang splatter from the stir frying.

or perhaps the accidental spill if & when you gobble the parcels of dakgalbi impatiently.



dalkgalbi & fried rice set menu :: dakgalbi 2 pax set | dakgalbi x 2 pax + 1 fried rice + 1 ramen + 1 cheese (rm 64)



three of us but we opted to share a set for two especially since we were planning on an after meal sweets.  starting with a hot plate filled with the usual suspects of cabbage, thin slices of potatoes, pieces of chicken marinated in the gochujang sauce and countable amount of rice cakes, it was served along side with a basket of greens, cucumber sticks, kimchi and salad.





what was left to do is to wait while the staff did all the cooking. within a few minutes, the vegetables started to soften and were tinged with the fiery red sauce. the ramen was added next with another dollop of the red sauce for completion. i knew we had to add an additional order of rice cakes especially it was only a mere amount of 4 with the set. we were waiting rather eagerly and willing in our hearts for the chicken to be cooked quickly.



it's odd to some but i love ramen. whether it is instant ramen or even the homemade ones - japanese, korean or even the chinese. you name it.

the lightly spicy and sweet with a mild saltiness that is characteristic of gochujang sauce lovingly clung to the ramen noodles, i slurp the springy noodles with a smile and then alternate it with softened cabbage that retained very little of its crunch especially after absorbing much of the sauce. the chicken was cooked just nicely and still hot, it was best wrapped with either lettuce greens {상추} for a taste of refreshing crisp to mellow the heat or perilla leaves {깻잎} for a more herbaceous punch for contrast. add the kimchi for a tart finish.



my favorite bites were definitely the rice cakes. the sauce that clung around rice cakes crisped over the heat from the pan, creating a flavorful crust that juxtaposed the soft chewiness of the rice cakes. a delicious bite size treat that i couldn't get enough of.


as we were making a huge dent into our panful of fiery goodness, the staff came over to slide what was left of dakgalbi to the side of the pan to make way for the finale of the meal: kimchi + seaweed + rice stir fry, very similar to the one i had at palsaik.  the rice is flatten into a disc before the cheese was sprinkled atop where the heat will melt the cheese into a bubbly gooey yumminess.



it donned the same base flavor profile as dakgalbi but with a light seaweed flavor to boot. the cheese was a hearty addition for a lovely richness as the cheese pulls with bitefuls. we would have loved more seaweed for that smoky, salty flavor to impart a different flavor profile to end the meal.

did mr dakgalbi surpassed my first love with 닭갈비in south korea?

unfortunately, not quite. it didn't have the same heartiness and burst of flavor from variety of ingredients in the single pan as the one i remembered from 2012 where i was filled with delicious coziness. however, the good news is this dakgalbi restaurant is good to hold me over until i return to south korea for an encore performance. perhaps the next time we could have a side order of octopus!


mr dakgalbi | location
no j-g-02 soho kl,
solaris mont kiara
kuala lumpur
{opens mon- thus: 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
fri: 11:30 am - 10 pm
sat: 12 pm - 10 pm}


disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


lunching at nobu

nobu. 

the chef who journeyed from japan to peru traversing back to his homeland after a few years in argentina and finally settling down in the united states - nobuyuki matsuhisa.


a restaurant bearing its founder's namesake, spanning across five continents, serving dishes rooted firmly in its japanese roots fused with a whiff of southern american - the chef/restaurateur embodying his gastronomical journey in his creations.

a restaurant that i yearned to try since it found its scenic malaysian home on the 56th floor menara petronas 3 just earlier this year.

black cod miso

nobu without black cod miso is akin to "music without notes".

unbeknownst to me of its significance in nobu's history, i made my rendition to mimic the restaurant's signature dish several years ago.
- imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. 

i enjoyed my craft but i wanted to try the fish at the heart of its creation. 


the hefty price tag of its famed dish (rm 165) warrants a special occasion, which meant my tasting gratification had to wait. however when my friend suggested the relatively affordable lunch sets at this japanese restaurant, i jumped at the suggestion as a preview of what could be.



with a dramatic 360 degree view of kl city skyline taking center stage, nobu takes on a classy minimalist decor, which were predominantly textured blonde wood furnishing and fixtures, echoed by the monochromatic colors of brown and beige for a simple finish - making way for the magnificent view and sunlight illuminate the space through the full length windows.





the lunch crowd was few which allowed us to pick a seat by the window to soak in the beautiful scenery and warmth of the sun to envelop us in its embrace. however, we were seated right below a speaker so the jazz music was a little louder than we liked. 

lunch sets :: sushi & sashimi | served with tempura, salad, rice, pickles and miso soup (with complimentary green tea and nobu biscuits) (rm 75)


a plethora of food staring back at me which made me smile, appreciating gleefully at the glistening colorful pieces of the fresh raw fish and scallop. i knew immediately i had to start with those, the main stars. 

p.s. considering this was NOBU, my expectations were higher while i held my experience here against my previous japanese dining experiences, including the ones i had in tokyo.



my first piece was the slightly sweetened tamago. slightly taken aback that it was still slightly cold resulting to a texture that was less fluffy. the thick cuts of sashimi slices were so fresh that it didn't really require any additional seasoning, where the meaty textures were a joy to the tastebuds.

on the other hand, the sushi had a mix bag of ups and downs. the rice were cooked just right (as were the bowl of rice) of separated grains but light on seasoning but i was hoping it was warmer to contrast the slices of fish. the scallop was torched lightly attributing to its slight textural contrast but the semi-fishy flavor as i chewed was almost a tad off that i wished i had more wasabi with it. 


out of the trio, i was saving the one that i was looking forward the most - the mackerel (aji) sushi, which was one of my unexpected favorites during my tokyo food hopping. consuming it all in a single bite, the green onion and the ginger was in the forefront before tasting the meaty fish. even though kept to a minuscule amount, the shaved ginger was dry that translated to an abrasive heat dominating the delicate flavors of the mackerel.


the tempura - a mostly crisp batter that coats the shrimp, a plump shiitake mushroom and the slice of pumpkin protectively. the mushroom was cooked just right, the shrimp was slightly overdone and the sweet slice of pumpkin was my definite favorite with the play of texture. the tempura coating on the shrimp was thicker than i'd like and it threw me off that while it wasn't greasy, i could still distinctly taste oil in the coat of tempura itself. however, the dashi dipping broth was delightful in umami punch that it brought the tempura assortment up a notch.




some of the side kicks made good impressions. the pickles were made meticulously that it tasted fresh (in a good way) which was great to cut through the rest of the dishes. the miso soup possessed an umami flavor profile with a hearty bean paste flavor with a smoky disposition, arousing a sense of warmth as the soup trickles down the throat. the salad however, was forgettable with just greens tossed in a asian vinaigrette.


lunch sets :: norwegian salmon crispy leaves | served with tempura, salad, rice, pickles and miso soup (with complimentary green tea and nobu biscuits) (rm 65)


it had the same essentials of the lunch set with a substitution of the entree. the entree was a chunk of crispy salmon paired with similarly lightly fried green leaves, atop the ponzu butter and embellished by vibrant ikura.


the salmon had a crispy skin but the flesh was surprisingly overcooked just ever so slightly - shaving off a little of the fish natural richness quality. the flavor profile was delicious with the sudden burst of flavor of the sea intertwined with umami from the ikura, against that light tartness of the sauce and the additional texture from the crispy leaves.


at the end of our meal, i'd almost forgotten about the nobu biscuits - it was green tea butter cookies sprinkled with sesame. it was sweet, buttery but really light on the green tea flavor so the bitterness was fleeting. it wasn't amazing but it was not bad.


lunch service is available on weekdays between 12pm to 2pm. while the ambiance (minus the loud music due to our choice of table) and service was good, i have to admit i was left a little disappointed by the food, more specifically with the mastery in execution even though the freshness and quality of ingredients were undeniable. perhaps it is my high expectations for nobu that has led me to nitpick on every little detail since it is a renowned fine dining restaurant. even so, i am still tempted to return to try out the black cod miso and taste how i fared against the original.

nobu kuala lumpur | location
level 56 menara 3 petronas
persiaran kuala lumpur city center
klcc, 50088
kuala lumpur
{opens weekdays (lunch): 12 pm - 2pm
mon - sat (dinner): 6 pm - 10:30 pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.