Can you handle the heat on these Korean “fire” noodles?
Chef Patrick Go’s new concept at The Grid, Gochu Gang does “straight up Korean” with full spice
- Gochu Gang
- Stall No. 5, The Grid Food Market, R2 Level Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Drive cor. Estrella Street, Rockwell Center
- 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- ₱P300 to P500
In 2016, a certain social media challenge went viral: It’s one where users try out spicy instant noodles and see if they can stand the heat. The noodles, called Samyang after its manufacturers in Korea, are similar to our instant pancit canton save for the varying levels of spiciness, which are often labeled as 2x, 3x, or 4x (corresponding to mild, moderate, and extreme, respectively).
But like any other trend, this kind of content has eventually been eclipsed by mukbang (binge eating) and autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos, or those slime making tutorials (I don’t know which came first).
In Korea, however, spicy food goes beyond trend. It is an essential flavor in their cuisine. Something chef Patrick Go is in full control of at his new concept at The Grid in Power Plant Mall.
Straight up Korean food
Stall no. 5 among a dozen other different offerings at the upscale food court, Gochu Chang serves “straight up Korean food.” Just what is straight up Korean, you ask?
It has a no-fuss menu that consists of quintessential Korean fare, from the ubiquitous K-BBQ to kimchi fried rice and bibimbap.
“We wanted to do a Koren concept that’s very approachable, very simple, and not too complicated, not too out there,” Go shares. “We’re starting with some items that are very familiar with customers so we have a lot of rice dishes like the bibimbap and the barbeque grilled set.”
Their Fire noodles, a take on the famed Samyang noodles, is a recent addition to their developing menu. The homemade noodles are mixed with vegetables, mushrooms, and chicken, and then bathed in special homemade spicy sauce. With the slices of grilled brioche, the bright orange strands almost resemble a pasta dish. But do not be fooled.
Topped with shredded scallions and sesame seeds, the fire noodles are enticing—until you decide to eat it. At first, it has a sweet smokey flavor, probably from the mushrooms. The noodles are firm with just the right bite. The spice kicks in a few seconds after, and it’s the kind that lingers in your tongue, the sides of your mouth, your throat and even after hours, in your stomach.
In between mouthfuls of the fire noodles, the tuna bibimbap offers refuge. A personal favorite of Go for its many flavors and unique texture, the dish is served in a hot bowl to sear the tuna’s surface but leave the inside raw and tender. It is also worth noting that instead of going for the usual gochujang sauce for the mix, Go mixes the soybean-based spicy sauce with doenjang or soybean paste, sesame oil and a bunch of other condiments resulting to a sweet and spicy flavor.
Approachable and familiar
In keeping up with Go’s vision of approachable and familiar offerings, there’s also kimchi fried rice, a comforting mound of rice stir-fried with bacon, mushroom, and bits of their homemade kimchi. Both the kimchi fried rice and the bibimbap bowl can be customized for vegetarians.
What is a Korean joint without the classic samgyeopsal? And one might add, without the smoking grills set up on tables? Answer: still a pretty good Korean restaurant. Gochu Gang skips the grilling station altogether saving customers the hassle of waiting for their meat to cook and smelling like smoke.
A single serving of their barbeque is about 160 grams of thinly cut pork belly served cooked. And just like the bibimbap bowls, each platter is served with three banchan: homemade kimchi, zucchini, and a side of their special sauce. But that’s not all there is. Go spills that they have plans to expand their meat options by adding wagyu and duck soon.
“We don’t want to scare off people with very unique creations but at the same time, we are still open to do special dishes but maybe in the coming months pa. For now, we’re just taking our time, trying to establish the restaurant itself as a very approachable Korean restaurant.”
Strangely, however, we found ourselves digging back into the fire noodles after the heat settles trying to prove that we have a high tolerance for spicy food. Regret paints our faces red, almost billowing fire with every breath. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Go approaches us and apologizes for how spicy the noodles are. We said it’s okay—after all, no one forced us to eat it. He says today is the first day the fire noodles go on sale, and that they are looking to vary the levels of heat just like the Samyang. Trends do come back after all.
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