Thursday, 4 February 2010

Jjambong @ Koba (Korean), London

{Update Mar 2010 - Returned here for Korean BBQ after invite from Catty and it was damn good - please go to Off The Blog 2 for mini-review} 

It's been a good few months since I last wrote about soup noodles and compiled Part 1 of my guide to London's finest. My first noodle tour took in most of East Asia with one notable exception, Korea, so I thought I'd kick off Part 2 of my guide with a trip to Koba. This trendy Rathbone St eatery is in the heart of Fitzrovia so it isn't cheap. Fortunately, they have a keenly priced special lunch menu from which I plumped for jjambong (£6.50). This bowl of mixed seafood soup with udong noodles was an easy choice. Well actually it was the only choice being the only soup noodle dish on the lunch menu.

I'm no expert on Korean food so I had no idea how this dish was going to turn out. Nevertheless, I was a little surprised to be served up a bowl of lurid red soup noodles. It reminded me very much of spicy flavour Nissin Ramen ! I knew this soup was going to be spicy and I admit to being a giant wuss because I thought it was too spicy. There was also an aftertaste but I couldn't work out what it was until I read this and discovered that jjambong is a Korean-Chinese dish flavoured with doubianjiang (spicy bean paste).

Now I'm sure if I were a homesick Korean then I would have loved this dish. But I'm not and I found these noodles a bit hard work. Notwithstanding the "in your face" spiciness and bean paste aftertaste, I realised that I'm not a big fan of thick udong in soup. I prefer thin noodles in soup and I think thick noodles work better in stir-fries.

My griping aside, this was a generously proportioned bowl of noodles with lots of seafood including mussel meat, squid, and baby shrimp supplemented by a single king prawn and a large mussel on the half shell. There was also plenty of udong and veg like carrot, onions, and peppers.

I liked the ambience of the restaurant and service was efficient. The special lunch menu is excellent value and my meal cost only £9.30 including tea and service. My only regret is that sometimes I wish I was Mr Rice rather than Mr Noodles as that would have allowed me to try the bibimbap ! 

Verdict: Whilst I didn't overly enjoy the jjambong, there's plenty of choice at Koba and I'd like to return to sample their Korean BBQ, which looked fantastic.

Other Stuff: It's no surprise to learn that Korean udong is the same noodle as Japanese udon. There's much debate between these old enemies on who invented these thick wheat noodles but they can stop arguing as they originated in China where they're known as cu mian.

Koba on Urbanspoon


  1. I think you're allowed bibimbap, so long as you also have noodles with it. It would be criminal not to have any! Particularly if it's with kimchi in the hot stone bowl that makes the rice on the bottom crunchy... *drool*

  2. I actually love udon in soup. I sometimes get the wife to make some slightly soupy curry and throw it on top of some udon at home.

  3. You definitely missed out by not getting bulgogi or pajeong at Koba!

  4. I'm with you on this, not a big fan of Korean Chinese cuisine. Ramen style noodles should have been used instead!

  5. Anon – my mouth is watering.

    WB – the only thick noodle that I like in soup is ho fun. That said, curry udon is a popular combo.

    A-in-L – please don’t taunt me – bulgogi and pajeong is my usual order in a Korean restaurant.

    3HT – my only experience of Korean-Chinese food wasn’t good. I had to put on a brave face though so as not to insult my well-intentioned host at a business lunch in Seoul.

  6. I know I shouldn't but I couldn't help but think of the Ginger Chicken Udon (item no. 44) on Wagamama's menu when you mentioned about stir fried udon.

    Just wondering whether thin noodles would go well with spicy soups. Wouldn't thicker noodles go down a little better? But I guess that's a personal choice. :)

    Thanks for the intro!

    C K

  7. LC - I think the thickest noodle allowed in soup should be ramen type medium noodles otherwise its thin all the way for me. That said I think an exception can be made for ho fun.

    Mind you, I'm not the noodle taliban so you can go for whatever noodle you fancy !

  8. I LOVE bibimbap I have to say - if you have your Mr Rice hat on rather than Mr Noodles the Bibimbap at Blossom at Citypoint near Moorgate is excellent.

  9. GC - the more I think about it, I am probably as much Mr Rice as I am Mr Noodles but I'm not sure I can handle having another alter-ego ! Thanks for the rec as I have got my eyes open for a Korean blow-out at some point.

  10. actually, authentic jjambong in Korea are made with thinner noodles, similar to ramen style noodles.
    and stuffed with veggies and seafood!

    Your neighborhood korean

  11. Anon (YNK) - thanks for clarifying that thinner noodles ought to be used. As I said in the post, I prefer the thinner noodle!

    BTW - went here for dinner last night and it's a belting restaurant for Korean BBQ should you find yourself in London.