“It’s not like there was anyone to teach us or anywhere we could ask,” says Grand Noodle owner Kim Hyun-Kyu. “We just try. We know because we tried everything. Our mouths are our labs.”
Hyun-Kyu has been making long, colorful, vegetable-packed noodles, for over 40 years, but his operation wasn’t always as popular as it is today. When he first started out, he used machines to produce 200 bags of flour a day to create noodles. “However, it didn’t work,” he says of the overly produced quality of that product, and he closed down his business. At home in Geochang, South Korea, he ended up making what he calls “these unique, functional noodles” that his friends started to order from him. “They complimented the crap out of [them],” he says, which led him to where he is today, making weekly batches of Grand noodles by hand.
The process, which takes about five days, begins with managing the produce. He chops and grinds down garlic scallions, boils beets, and grinds rice flower, which all eventually get mixed with wheat flour to make the different noodles. On the second day, he adds the doughs to a rolling machine that smooths it out into sheets, squeezes out moisture, and cuts them into long strands. The noodles dry slowly at low temperatures for two days, hanging from tall racks in a sun-drenched room, cooled with fans. From there, bundles of noodles are cut into 10-inch strands with a giant stainless steel knife on an axis, reminiscent of a giant paper cutter.
What makes Kim Hyun-Kyu’s operation so special is that he makes his Grand noodles in accordances with “Obang,” or the five cardinal colors in Korean culture: black, yellow, blue, white, and red. “The five colors are said to bring luck and get rid of misfortune,” he says. “So I created this to keep that culture alive.”
Kim Hyun-Kyu makes gift sets of the noodles that include all five colors, and recommends they be enjoyed by boiling them and serving them with perilla oil and salt to taste. “On a special day, they eat this food and live a long life,” he says of his customers. “That’s the hope I have when I make these noodles.”