Located in Stonecreek Plaza next to Layer Cake Bakery, Kyodang Noodles is one of the newest Korean restaurants in Irvine. Unlike other Korean restaurants, however, the menu leans more towards Korean Chinese food with its focus on jajangmyeon and selection of fried rice dishes.
Jajangmyeon is a sweet and savory black bean noodle and has become one of the most popular Korean Chinese dishes worldwide. First introduced to Korea in 1905 by a Chinese restaurant in Incheon’s Chinatown, the dish is based on a Northern Chinese ground pork and noodle dish called zha jiang mian. Even though the noodles have Chinese origins, Yong Chen, professor of history at UC Irvine and an expert on Chinese food history, explained to Lubbock Avalanche Journal that the dish is now distinctly Korean.
What differentiates jajangmyeon from zha jiang mian is that jajangmyeon is made with a sweet black bean paste called chunjang and is almost always served with chewy, wheat noodles. And instead of ground pork, it often has chunks of pork, onion, zucchini, and other vegetables mixed into it.
Kyodang Noodles serves up several varieties of jajangmyeon including traditional, seafood, spicy, mangu, and veggie. I opted for the seafood jajangmyeon and spicy jajangmyeon.
What initially hit me about each dish was the large serving size. One bowl of noodles and an appetizer would easily be enough for two people to split. Between the two dishes, I preferred the seafood jajangmyeon, which came with a variety of seafood like shrimp, squid and clams. The sweetness of the black bean paste and the savory soy sauce flavor were much more easily detectable in these noodles than the spicy one. The spicy jajangmyeon tasted almost exclusively of spiciness other than the few sweet bites of onion, skipping over the sweet black bean flavor you look for in jajangmyeon. Since the sauce on both dishes was very thick, it clung to the noodles ensuring that every bite of noodles was flavorful once properly mixed. I also appreciated the chewiness of the noodles, which made the dish feel hearty and filling.
The meal overall was quite tasty and makes it easy for jajangmyeon lovers to get their fill. One downside to this spot though is the wait. I came close to opening with only one customer in front of me and only ordered two dishes to-go. Despite the fairly low number of customers, it took over 20 minutes for them to prepare my food. This means that the food most likely will not be prepared quickly enough for the many Woodbridge High School students and office workers who frequent Stonecreek Plaza for lunch. It is a spot one should either call ahead at or reserve for when one has more time.
Kyodang Noodles is open daily for dine-in, takeout, and delivery from 11:00 a.m. – 8:15 p.m.