Kunjip’s Kong Gook Soo Will Cool You Down, But Not Much Else

Last week I got an email from Tasting Table alerting me to a special summer dish at Koreatown favorite Kunjip. Kong Gook Soo is a Korean soup I had never encountered before consisting of a ground soybean broth, cold noodles, and cucumber slices. Tasting Table called it “air-conditioning for your insides.” I’m a glutton for air conditioning and new, unusual dishes, so I figured I’d stop by to get a taste.

It’s one of three special summer options, and even though it’s the cheapest one ($10.95) it’s slightly out of ML price range. ┬áBut you still get all the usual banchan (free appetizers) so it was certainly filling enough for a mea. But was it tasty enough to warrant the splurge?

The waiter told me I had to add salt. Even if he hadn’t prepped me, my tastebuds would have screamed for the seasoning. The soup on its own (without a generous sprinkling of salt) was very bland. It had some nice textures with the springy noodles and the crunchy cucumbers, but aside from a slight cereal sweetness from the soymilk and a sesame seed here and there, it had absolutely no flavor.

My instincts told me to find some hot sauce to add into this. There was none on the table so I asked one of the waitresses who looked at me funny. She said I shouldn’t add hot sauce to this soup, only salt. I guess that’s the traditional way to eat this cold soup. So I added even more salt. And the soup was silky and cooling, but did not feature the bold intense flavors I usually expect from Korean food. It was very delicate and refreshing, but I wouldn’t say it was terribly flavorful.

And at over $10, I can’t say it’s really worth it for me. But if you are a kong gook soo fan and it’s a brutally hot summer day I suppose this is the lunch for you.

Kunjip, 9 West 32nd Street (btw. B’way+5th), 212-216-9487


5 Comments

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I can see why Kong Gook Soo would be hard to appreciate compared to the usual overpowering garlic and red chili pepper laden Korean staples. Kong Gook Soo is in heavy rotation in my parents’ house during the summer. The idea is that you take very minimal but healthy ingredients, whip it up without using the stove, and set it out to eat. Adding the salt kinda wakes up the dish. The thing to do, though, is that you grab kimchi with your chopsticks and then also grab the noodles and eat together. So you weren’t wrong to want some hot sauce, but the spice is delivered by eating it with kimchi.

    I definitely have appreciated this dish now that I’m older. It’s so simple, so healthy, and has a wonderful marriage of textures: milky soybean broth, ice cold noodles, crunchy cucumbers, and the addition of kimchi. Hope you’ll consider trying again!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I think this meal is meant as a cleanser and to cool off the body. Maybe you’re used to strong flavors, but some ethnic Korean dishes do incline towards lighter flavor and taste. Maybe it’s also because I prefer the unsweetened over the sweetened/salted soymilk.

  • I’m not a fan of this stuff either, but my parents LOVE it! They used to eat this as a way to get nutrients during a time where food was scarce. I totally can see why you were confused!

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