In Which There is a Bowl of Potato Noodle Soup…

There are potatoes in there...

There are potatoes in there…

The use of potatoes and potato starch/flour to make noodles is nothing new; in fact, it’s virtually a given in many cuisines throughout the world.  In Italy, you have the gorgeously chewy and moreish bits between dumping and pasta known as gnocchi.  Potatoes are prepared in a similar fashion in much of Eastern Europe, Germany, and Luxembourg; spuds turned into chewy little pasta rolls are referred to as knodel in that part of the world.  In both Baden and Alsace both near the Franco-German border, there is a dish called Badische Schupfnudeln where leftover mashed potatoes are mixed with flour and egg yolks to make thick, spaetzle-like noodles which are later fried up with plenty of butter and topped with fresh-ground pepper and a touch of salt.

Since potatoes were but recently (read: less than 300 years or so ago) introduced to Asia, their use in noodle making is not as common as it is in the West.  The Koreans, however, have hit upon the notion of using potatoes to make instant ramen/ramyeun noodles.

Popular noodle brand Nongshim has an instant version of what is known as gamjatang.  This popular winter stew features pork vertebrae (the spine) and chunked-up potatoes simmered down in a richly flavored broth loaded with chilies, spring onions, and roasted sesame seeds.  The dish gets its name from the word gamja which means “potato” in Hanggul.  It is something like the Japanese tonkotsu (a rich, sticky-textured broth made by simmering down pork bones and cartilage), only spicier and more warming.

The instant version is referred to as gamjatang-myeun as it features potato starch noodles in lieu of both regular white-flour noodles and the potatoes traditionally cooked along with the pork spine and there are a few potato bits in the packet of dehydrated vegetables that comes with the package.  These noodles are significantly bouncier and springier as far as the texture is concerned; these are quite a bit firmer to the bite, chewier, and their savory flavor goes well with the rather spicy broth.

Budae jjigae, anyone?

Budae jjigae, anyone?

The instant version is quite good on its own, but I love embellishing it with a poached egg, slivers of leftover pork roast or even sliced-up Spam to make a version of the Korean deli-meat stew budae jjigae.  It makes for an unusual and rather heavy breakfast, but also works a treat to fill up bellies on cold, rainy evenings.