[Jeonju] Veteran Noodles (베테랑)

Kalguksu, or knife-cut noodles handmade from wheat flour, translates literally to “knife noodles” in Korean. They’re traditionally served in a clean, clear broth flavoured with dried anchovies, manila clams and kelp. Possessing a flat and thin appearance, kalguksu typically bears a striking resemblance to fettuccine.

Kalguksu (칼국수), 5000 won.

Save for the fact that both are soupy noodle dishes, the hearty kalguksu served at the famous Veteran in Jeonju bears no resemblance at all to the kalguksu commonly served in Seoul. Comparing the two would be akin to a lumberjack squaring off with his svelte, city-dwelling cousin – this is one alpha-male dish if there ever was any, and is heavy, fierce and a whopper to boot. Flavored with liberal amounts of perilla seed powder and seaweed powder, an egg is cracked into the broth for added texture before garnishing the dish with chilli powder and dried seaweed.

The broth at Veteran is spectacular. For that we have mainly the perilla seed powder to thank; it gives the dish a subtle nutty aroma and thickens the eggy broth. I felt like I was slurping up a much more flavorful version of our ban mian broth. I tossed some cubes of their radish kimchi into my soup for an added kick.

Not your usual bowl of kalguksu.

A large number of write-ups of Veteran by Korean food bloggers have expressed surprise at the appearance of the kalguksu here. Instead of the flat and broad noodles that Koreans usually associate kalguksu with, the noodles served at Veteran came in the form of thin tubes. The noodles here were chewy and al dente, just the way I like them.

A peek into the kitchen revealed that these noodles were machine-pulled balls of kneaded wheat flour, with the end result being that they possess an identical appearance and texture to what we know as homemade you mian. Bit bizarre that Singaporeans would find this Jeonju noodle dish more familiar tasting than most Koreans do, but whad’ya know, eh?

Veteran of noodles since 1977.

Apart from kalguksu, Veteran offers only two other dishes: Jjolmyeon (chewy cold noodles in a spicy sauce, also known as bibim guksu, if you will) and mandu (meat dumplings, comes in a serving of 10), priced at 5000 won and 4000 won respectively. Didn’t try them because I was struggling to finish my bowl of kalguksu. As mentioned above, the serving portions here are mammoth-sized. One order of kalguksu comes in a large stainless steel bowl filled to the very brim with noodles and soup, and should be sufficient for you and a skinny friend or two.

Despite the references I’ve made to ban mian/you mian in this entry, I wouldn’t be doing justice to this dish if I didn’t point out how much better and heartier it tastes than any ban mian I’ve had. However, tackling a dish made entirely of carbs does get tiring after a while, and I found myself craving some deep-fried ikan bilis (anchovies) I could sprinkle on my kalguksu.

I wish I could provide better directions to Veteran, but there aren’t any subway stations or major landmarks nearby that I can use as a point of reference. Well if you’re in Jeonju, chances are you’ll be visiting the famous traditional hanok village anyway – Veteran is located within the village, and shouldn’t be too hard to locate if you ask any of the friendly shopkeepers in the vicinity.

Veteran (베테랑)
85-1, Gyo-dong, Wansan-gu
Jeonju-shi, Jeollabuk-do
(Address in Korean: 전라북도 전주시 완산구 교동 85-1)

Opening hours: 11.00a.m. – 9.00p.m. daily.
Tel. No.: (063) 282-9898

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