Links in this chain do ramyeon the right way ― simple and cheapKim Bok-hyun started a ramyeon, or instant noodle, shop in 1981 in a cramped space in Myeong-dong. He called it Teumsae, which means “in the middle of a crack.” The shop flourished, outgrowing what then seemed to be a tightly constrained future, to become a franchise. Seventy Teumsae Ramyeon outlets now dot the peninsula. The newest one sits tucked away alongside numerous cosmetic surgery clinics in a back street near Apgujeong subway station.
As you walk into this Teumsae, three slabs of uncooked noodles in three glass frames welcome you. There are just three tables, and if it gets crowded you might have to share your table with strangers. There is also a counter along one wall for solo diners. The walls are decorated with notes that customers jotted down to mark their visit.
There are only five items on the Teumsae Ramyeon menu, and that is exactly the point. Instant noodles should be quick and simple. There are two ramyeon dishes: ppalgyetteok, a spicy noodle soup with thin slices of rice cake and boiled egg, and gyetteok, a milder version of the same soup. Each costs 3,000 won ($2.50). Also on the menu are bulgimbab (2,000 won), or rice rolls with marinated beef; jumokbab (2,000 won), heart-shaped rice balls with meat and veggies mixed in, and a bowl of plain rice (1,000 won).
Ppalgyetteok is the most popular menu item, says Lee Eung-jae, the owner of the Apgujeong shop. Mr. Lee says that the spicy soup will not give you heartburn like some other Korean food. “Although you might think all instant ramyeon noodles are the same, we use bean paste and bean powder in our noodles to make them milder, easier to digest,” he says.
The rice rolls and rice balls go good with the spicy noodles. The heart-shaped rice balls are too cute to eat, but too delicious not to.
Mr. Lee says many foreign customers, mostly Japanese students and tourists and English teachers working in nearby language institutes, frequent the shop.
Do not be surprised when the server asks you to pay when you place your order. And you have to get your own water and condiments.
Location: 578-1 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam district; near Apgujeong subway station, line No. 3
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Closed 2d and 4th Sunday of each month
Credit cards: Not accepted
Telephone: (02) 515-1356
Web site: www.teumsae.com
by Eugine Oh