Everyone has those dishes that remind them of their childhood. For me, that dish is janchi-guksu (잔치국수), which roughly translates to “festival noodles.” While traditionally for large parties, janchi-guksu is a dish my grandma would make for my siblings and me as an after-school snack. Growing up, this dish was actually not my favorite — I found the plain anchovy broth with thin noodles boring, my Americanized taste buds craving something more flavorful (preferably with cheese). But now that I’m older and living further away from home, I have a newfound appreciation for the dish’s simplicity. Unlike ramen, pho or other Asian noodle dishes that slap you in the face with flavor, janchi-guksu has an understated flavor profile that is warmly comforting — kind of like a hug in a bowl.
During break, I had a lot of free time so I attempted to recreate my grandma’s janchi-guksu. While obviously nothing can beat the real deal, I think it came pretty close.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
- 8 ounces sōmen noodles (or noodle of your choice)
- 5 cups water
- 10 dried anchovies or 3 anchovy stock tablets
- ½ of a medium onion
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dashida beef stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ of a carrot
- ½ of a zucchini
- 1 shiitake mushroom
- Sesame oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large pot, add the water, anchovies (or anchovy tablets) and medium onion and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once the water is boiling, lower to medium-low heat so the water comes to a simmer. Add in the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and Dashida beef stock. Stir the mixture so the sugar and Dashida completely dissolve.
- Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Let the broth simmer over medium-low heat for 30-45 more minutes. While it’s simmering, be sure to skim off the foam that floats to the top of the surface with a skimmer or large spoon.
- While the broth is simmering, prepare the sōmen noodles according to the instructions on the package. Once the noodles are fully cooked, wash them in cold water to prevent overcooking and set them aside.
- Wash and prepare the vegetables. Cut the carrot, zucchini and mushroom into julienne strips (long and thin).
- In a small pan, add a small amount of sesame oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add in the carrots, season with salt and pepper and saute for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Take out the carrots and repeat this step with the zucchini and mushroom individually. By the end, you should have three separate piles of sliced carrot, zucchini and mushroom.
- In the same pan, add a little bit more sesame oil and add in the beaten egg, swerving the pan to ensure the egg completely covers the pan. Cook the egg over medium-low heat for approximately one minute. Once fully cooked, remove the crepe-like egg from the pan and roll it up and slice it into ¼ inch thick slices. This should create thin ribbons of egg.
- Assemble the dish by placing one bunch of noodles into a bowl, adding in the broth (make sure it’s piping hot and remove the onion and anchovies) and topping it with the julienned carrots, zucchini, mushroom and egg as you wish. Enjoy!
The highlight of janchi-guksu is the broth. The subtle anchovy flavor is enhanced by the soy sauce and other aromatics, creating a nice, clean broth that won’t make you feel bleh after eating it. While making janchi-guksu from scratch definitely takes time, from letting the broth simmer to slicing up the toppings, you’re left with a comforting dish that will warm you up from the inside out.
A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the January 13, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.