Easy Dak Kalguksu (Knife-Cut Noodle Soup)
This easy dak kalguksu is a warm Korean noodle soup prepared in a light chicken-based broth with hearty vegetables and chewy, flat noodles. Its mild and clean flavor tastes even better with a side of crunchy, fresh kimchi.
As its name suggests, kalguksu is made with knife-cut noodles. Kalguksu (칼국수) means knife (kal, 칼) noodles (guksu, 국수) in Korean.
You could make homemade knife-cut noodles. However, I buy fresh knife-cut noodles (cuts down prep time by an hour) to make this kalguksu recipe quick and easy.
The chewy, flat noodles are served in a hot, savory soup with shredded chicken and hearty vegetables. The soup itself has a rich yet clean and mild flavor that goes well with a side of fresh kimchi (geotjeori, 겉절이). The zucchini, carrots, onions, and potatoes are thinly sliced, and easy to pick up and enjoy in bites with the noodles.
I like to make this dish when I’m feeling under the weather and craving something nourishing, easy to make, and light on the stomach.
If you like this recipe, you may also want to check out my tom yum chicken noodle soup. It is also simple to make, but has bolder flavors.
Kalguksu Soup Base
There are vegetable, seafood, or chicken based versions of kalguksu.
I’ve tried making this with littleneck clams (bajirak kalguksu, 바지락 칼국수) before, and appreciate that particularly refreshing seafood taste. However, I’m not a huge fan of the extra prep time cleaning the clams (e.g., cleaning the shells, soaking in salt water to get the sand out, etc.). There’s also seafood kalguksu (haemul kalguksu, 해물칼국수), which is typically prepared with clams, prawns, and octopus.
With chicken or dak kalguksu, you still get a flavorful soup but with less prep work. Split, bone-in chicken breast pieces are directly added to a large pot of water with a few aromatics, and cooked until you get a richly flavored yet clean-tasting broth.
Some recipes use whole chicken. I chose to use split, bone-in chicken breast to again cut down cook time and because it has less fat.
For all flavors (vegetable, seafood, and chicken), I add a dried anchovy and dashima (kombu) soup packet and season the soup with soy sauce and salt. This gives the soup extra umami and depth of flavor.
Kalguksu dough is typically made with wheat flour, salt, and water. It is rolled out into a thin sheet and sliced into ribbons with a sharp knife.
I will make my own recipe for homemade knife-cut noodles when I have more time. However, to satisfy my kalguksu cravings for now, I use store-bought fresh noodles. Dried kalguksu noodles are also an option but will be less chewy.
The Wang packaged kalguksu noodles (sold at H-mart) are probably most authentic.
However, I also use these fresh and cheaper Taiwanese “linguine” noodles (photo below), which have a similar enough bite. I like how these noodles have no added salt. They are also bunched into bundles of a perfect serving size, for me at least. And they release just enough starch into the kalguksu soup for that desired, slightly thickened consistency.
You can find these packaged fresh noodles in the refrigerated section of your local Asian market.
The Wang kalguksu noodles can release a bit too much starch in my opinion. If you find this to be the case with your fresh noodles, you can also parboil your noodles before adding them to the simmering kalguksu soup to finish cooking.
I would like to stick to a one-pot recipe and will use these Taiwanese noodles for now.
Tips for kalguksu
- Serve with fresh kimchi. The savory soup has a milder, clean taste that goes well with a side of fresh kimchi (baechu geotjeori, 배추 겉절이). It has a fresher spicy taste, crunchier texture compared to the more familiar fermented kimchi.
- Make it a comforting weeknight meal. You can enjoy a large stock of this soup over the week. Simply reheat 4 cups of leftover soup, and add the chicken, fresh julienned vegetables, and one serving of noodles to the boiling soup. Let it cook for another 4 minutes and you’ll have a quick and hearty weeknight meal.
- Add the potatoes. Some kalguksu recipes make this optional. However, I highly recommend you don’t skip the julienned potatoes. They add depth in flavor and a refreshing soup taste.
- Serve and eat immediately. Since the thick noodles tend to soak up the flavorful soup pretty quickly, you will want to enjoy this dish right away. Make sure you heat enough soup for your noodles. I find that 4 cups of broth to 100g of noodles works well (one serving).
Other Noodle Soup Recipes:
Mise en place
If you make this Quick Dak Kalguksu, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag @chrisseenplace on Instagram!
Easy Dak Kalguksu (Knife-Cut Noodle Soup with Chicken)
- 11½-12 cups water
- 3 lb bone in split chicken breast (about 3 pieces)
- 8 cloves garlic
- ½ yellow onion
- 1 dried anchovy seafood soup packet
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1½ tsp salt (or TT)
- 2 medium carrots, julienned (100g)
- 1 medium zucchini, julienned (200g)
- 1 russet potato, julienned
- ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 300 g fresh, knife-cut Korean noodles
- fresh kimchi (optional side)
- Place the chicken, water, ½ onion, and garlic cloves in a large pot, and bring it to a boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the top as it heats up. Reduce the heat a simmer and let it cook for about 30 minutes.
- Add the dashi pack and let it simmer for another 15 minutes or until the chicken breast is cooked through.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the pot and let them cool a bit before shredding the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces.
- Discard the garlic cloves, onion, and dashi pack from the broth.
- Season the broth with the soy sauce and salt, and bring it back to a boil.
- Add the prepared vegetables (zucchini, carrots, onion, potatoes), noodles, and some of the shredded chicken and let it simmer until the noodles and vegetables are cooked through (about 3-4 minutes).
- Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with a side of fresh kimchi.