In a previous blog post I discussed the concept of, ‘balli balli,’ or, ‘quick quick,’ culture within Korea. I explained how despite common misconception, this aspect of Korean society does not negate the friendliness of its’ people and that a balance of both hard work and kindness can be experienced within Korea. Going off of that, no one else I’ve met has exemplified this combination of, ‘balli balli,’ work ethic and charm more than Mrs. Cho Yoon-Sun.
At the age of 58, Mrs. Cho has become famous for her 칼국수 (knife-cut noodles) in Gwangjang Market. Landing herself a Netflix special (Street Food, Volume 1, Episode 6), it’s only expected that her booth is constantly flocked with hungry travelers from all over the world. Mrs. Cho flies between kneading and cutting and noodles, filling dumplings with kimchi and pork, boiling the dishes, and serving them endlessly to expecting customers. Due to the high demand Mrs. Cho not only has cooking assistants, but a ‘seat’ manager who moves the customers in and out to regulate flow. However, despite the whirlwind of noodles and dumplings, Cho Yoon-sun still manages to greet everyone with smiles and enthusiasm.
I was lucky enough to land a seat in front of Ms. Cho. As I sat, the flow of onlookers circling around the booth continued with people taking videos and photos of the celeb-chef. I overheard many tourists talking about how they learned of her through Netflix or other media.
Getting the opportunity to experience Mrs. Cho’s cooking, it’s understandable why she has the reputation she does. The food tasted amazing and with the first bite alone I became speechless. The savory flavors of the dish gave me the feel of eating a home cooked meal, the type of simple satisfaction that comes from Grandma’s cooking. I happily ate it all up and upon completing my food I told Mrs. Cho it was the best noodle dish I’d ever had, a statement that is entirely true.
We began chatting as she asked me about where I’m from and why I’m in Korea. she even kindly complimented my Korean language skills! All the while she kept cutting noodles without needing to look down once. Mrs. Cho did this with all her customers too, chatting and smiling with everyone she met in a way that felt truly genuine.
Before leaving, I managed to grab a quick selfie with her as well! Since my visit, I’ve always recommended others to check out her booth if they’re going to the market; it’s a must experience!
To get the Mrs. Cho’s noodle stand: Entering via the front entrance of Gwangjang Market (near Jong-ro 5ga subway exit 7) head to the center and make a left. From there, keep heading straight until you find her. You will know when you do, it’s always swarmed with people!
Emily Creasman is a student at Arizona State University. She was an ISA Featured Blogger and studied abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.