Dish: Bee Bim Naeng Myun
Place: Hae-Nam Kalbi & Calamari in Shoreline
In the Bowl: A fiery red mass of buckwheat noodles with daikon kimchi, cucumber, beef slices, Asian pear, and half of a boiled egg.
Supporting Cast: Scissors, and a small bowl of clear beef broth. Also a nice selection of banchan and, if you ask, a side dish of rice.
What to do: You or your server will use the scissors to cut the long noodles. Stir bowl contents together (bee bi ,or bibim, means “mixed”)–or not. Eat, taking sips from the small bowl of broth as desired.
Noodling around: The cold, metal bowl conceals heat from the spicy, garlicky sauce–made here from, according to the menu, black pepper, ginger, garlic, hot bean paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, and broth. This is confusing, as the server later told me there’s the ubiquitous gochujang in the sauce–which is hot pepper sauce, not hot bean sauce. When I checked my Choripdong brand of gochujang at home, it listed red pepper power as an ingredient instead of red pepper powder. Actually, that’s a typo I like, as I’m all for red pepper power.
Anyway, the noodles slide in spicily and have a slight chew to them, which I enjoy as a tempo-slower and a way to extend the meal. The daikon and cucumber add crunch, while the beef and egg add depth. And the side bowl of beef broth is actually cooling, serving as a nice contrast to the heat of the noodles.
If still hungry: Hard to believe if you take advantage of all the banchan and rice, but especially if you’ve got someone sitting with you, an order of hae-mool-pah-juhn ($12.95) might be nice. This is a seafood and green onion patty (actually, a large pancake), with Hae-Nam’s version greener than most I’ve had. Or, if really hungry, get kal bi ($19.95) to grill at your table. Or, as the restaurant name suggests, calamari. There’s a fun sign on the wall to remind you of these options if you forget.
Be aware/beware: Service can be a little slow, as there are always many plates to deliver and pick up from many tables. So if you need anything (including any extra banchan, which comes free), press the button on your table (if you’re at a grill table) to get a server. Also note that if you want meat grilled at your table, you must get at least two orders of kal bi. (I’m not sure why you can’t get a combination of two meats, like kal bi and pork belly. Seems like a silly rule.) Otherwise, your kal bi will come already cooked in the kitchen–which is less fun and interactive.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on January 11, 2011.