My favorite gripe about Chinese food in Korea is the myopic focus on a handful of dishes that aren’t really Chinese to begin with—namely, jjajang-myeon (짜장면) and jjambbong (짬뽕). 8 out of 10 noodle items on any given menu are variations of one or the other: with minced pork (see 2.023 Yuni Jjajang-Myeon), with seafood (see 1.117 Samseon Jjajang-Myeon), with seafood and onions (see 1.159 Samseon Gan Jjajang-Myeon), with a sea cucumber/shrimp ball and seafood (see 1.285 Oryong Samseon Jjajang-Myeon), on a platter with octopus (see 2.193 Jaengban Nakji Jjajang-Myeon), just to cite a few examples of jjajang-myeon that have been featured on the blog; similar variations of jjambbong are also available. Some places offer both in one bowl (see 1.352 Jjam-Jja-Myeon). Not limited to noodles, they’ve been adapted to rice plates (e.g., jjajang-bap, jjambbong-bap). And fried rice itself always comes with a side of jjajang sauce and jjambbong broth.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy jjajang-myeon or jjambbong per se. In fact, I plan to eat jjajang-myeon as my last meal on the night before my execution.
It’s that there’s no effort, not even a thought, either from the restaurant or the customer, to venture outside this framework. Instead of coming up with anything new, or simply going back and (re)discovering the already existing dishes available in the bona fide Chinese culinary tradition, they just dick around with the same two recipes.
Case in point, this hayan (하얀) jjambbong. The "hayan" meaning "white," its milky yet slightly spicy broth was somewhere between the standard red/hot jjambbong (see 1.178 Haemul Jjambbong) and the clear/mild udong (see 1.241 Udong). It's yet another new-but-not-really-new dish in the Korean-Chinese repertoire.