The squat rectangular building on John Marr Drive in Annandale looks like a former Pizza Hut. The oversize Korean sign on the roof doesn’t even bother to provide some cutesy, secondary English name, and once you walk inside, you can see why. The place is absolutely packed for lunch, and all the diners appear to be Korean. Well, except for me and my two buds. Jang Hyun Ban Jun (transliteration courtesy of my friend, Lou, who lived in Seoul as a child) is a noodle house, and it specializes in ja jang myun, this dark tangle of wheat noodles mixed with fermented bean paste and caramelized onions. The dish is practically required eating in Korea, especially among kids, despite its Chinese origins. Given its popularity at this noodle house, where every table seems to have a bowl, I’d venture to say ja jung myun is practically required eating in Annandale, too. To the uninitiated, the first bite of ja jung myun can seem like a childhood dare. Each strand (the noodles, incidentally, are made in-house; just listen for the slap of the dough in the kitchen) is tossed and coated with bean paste until the entire mass resembles a bowl of earth worms. It tastes terrific, though, a little sweet, a little earthy, and very fresh. “That’s good ja jang myun,” Lou intones. “The flavors are authentic.” There are a lot of other treats at Jang Hyun Ban Jun, too—including perhaps the best sweet-and-sour pork I’ve ever tasted—but really you need to start with the ja jung myun.

4210 John Marr Dr., Annandale, Va., (703) 354-1950

Next up: Joe’s Noodle House