Tag Archives: spicy

The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

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I tried Korea’s spiciest fire noodle (불닭볶음면) challenge

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I finished the Buldak Bokkeum Myun, but at what cost? SCREAMfmLondon

A while ago, a spicy-noodle-eating challenge became very popular (among competitive eaters and masochists, I can only assume). The challenge pits YouTubers against Korea’s spiciest instant noodles: Samyang Food’s Buldak Bokkeum Myun (which basically translates to “fire chicken stir-fry noodles”). Most people simply call this the Fire Noodle Challenge.

I’m not sure what compelled me to take on the challenge. It was not too long ago that I would break a sweat trying to eat a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But I’ve built up my spice tolerance so much since then! ‘I’m a new person,’ I thought. I would prove how far I’ve come by conquering the Internet’s most feared noodle.

The instant noodles are prepared like most are: you heat the noodles in hot water, then strain out the water, leaving just the dry noodles.

Two packets of seasoning come with the fire noodles. The first is full of sesame seeds and thin strips of seaweed for extra flavor, and the second is full of the dark red, gelatinous, spicy sauce. Mix these ingredients together with your chopsticks and dig in.

At first, the noodles aren’t too spicy. The smoky chicken flavor is clearly present, and the slight zest only adds to it.

At first.

About two bites in, I realized my mistake. I was in over my head. It was extremely fiery. Extremely. I felt like I should have been able to breathe fire if I opened my mouth. I moved my bowl several feet away from me, downed a bottle of water and gave it a few minutes.

After taking a break, I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad. The challenge, after all, is to eat the noodles as quickly as possible. Surely, if you eat them fast enough, the spiciness won’t be able to catch you?

So I powered through it. I ate the entire bowl. I did it! That wasn’t so bad. It was kind of delicious…

And then…

I yelled, “Oh, god!” loudly and sprinted into the bathroom, where I ran my entire face under the faucet of cold water. I inhaled water through my nose, and I didn’t even care. Nothing helped ease the pain in my mouth and throat.

It tasted like what I imagine being pepper-sprayed feels like.

Tears streamed down my face as I stood, hunched over and trembling, in the bathroom, greedily scooping tap water into my mouth.

There were a few Very Real moments where I seriously, honestly thought I might have to go to the hospital. Have people died from this? I should have done more research. Was I going to be that one urban legend character that actually perishes after completing the super-spicy noodle challenge? Was that my fate?

It seemed like hours before I regained my composure, but I have, now, made a complete recovery from the fire noodle experience.

I do not actually recommend this challenge to anyone. It is a terrible idea. It is a Very Bad Idea. Please do not do this. Love yourself. Eat things that will not cause you bodily harm. Please. Take it from me: Buldak Bokkeum Myun is great for incapacitating your enemies, but it’s awful for dinner.

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Eat at your own risk. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Bibimbap, gamjatang and more

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This delicious dolsot bibimbap is found in Insa-dong. The stone pot is hot enough to cook a raw egg and make the rice at the bottom brown and crispy. Bibimbap is a force to be reckoned with. SCREAMfmLondon

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Very popular melon bingsu. The melon is hollowed out and filled with ice cream, pieces of cheesecake, shaved ice and condensed milk. It is served with a hefty knife you can use to slice the melon shell and eat it. SCREAMfmLondon

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Gamjatang is a spicy pork bone soup: this one is made with pork spine, vegetables and hot peppers. Very labor-intensive to remove the meat from the bones, but very rewarding. SCREAMfmLondon

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Found a new favorite barbeque restaurant specializing in perfect, thick cuts of pork. Tasty to eat with a sprinkle of salt, a drop of gochujang and some roasted garlic. SCREAMfmLondon