Al Bae Ne’s Jjajang Rice is Magically Delicious
My love of jjajangmyeon, the Korean/Chinese black bean sauce over noodles dish, is well documented. So you can imagine how excited I was to read Lunch’er “Christine’s” profile a few weeks ago where she mentioned that you could also get also get jjajang rice at a place called Al Bae Ne (in Koreatown.) That’s the same black bean sauce, served over fried rice instead of noodles. How awesome is that? (I discriminate against no carbs!)
Kristine graciously agreed to take me to her leader the delicious sounding black bean sauce rice.
Al Bae Ne is known for being one of those 24 hour Koreatown spots where cheap, sit down “snacks” can be scored any time, night or day. But they also have a long list of lunch specials as well, all priced between $4.99 and $7.29. A lot of them looked pretty decent, but I was there for the bean sauce fried rice.
I have to say for $5 this is kind of a steal. I don’t think there was any meat in the sauce, and the zucchini and onions were cut into really big chunks (how rustic!) instead of the small dice. But something magical happens when that bean sauce hits the otherwise standard fried rice. I didn’t try the standard jjajangmyeon (also $4.99) but Christine swears it’s not as good. I’ll take her word for it.
The other dish she recommends at Al Bae Nae is the Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup (jjambbong), a big bowl of fishy red broth filled with noodles, shrimp, squid, and even crab! You can’t tell from the photo but the bowl is gi-freakin-gantic and is inexplicably $6.38. You can tell the seafood in the bowl is cheap, but under $7 just seems insane. It almost makes me scared to eat it. Almost.
Unlike Mapo Restaurant, whose mediocre $6 lunch specials are completely supplemented by their mind boggling array of panchan, the four things you get at Al Bae Ne were completely unmemorable. But it was too late. I was under the spell of that black bean sauce over fried rice. So simple, yet so genius. I’m going to find it hard to order the noodles ever again.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I love jjajangmyeon… but jjajang rice! So great.
- I like how they cut the veggies super thick, so you know what you’re eating
- I love cheap seafood, and that bowl of soup is unbelievably huge for $6.38
- They have so many lunch specials, and they’re all super super cheap
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I think you found the only two decent dishes at that place. The rest of the food is pretty mediocre
- Al Bae Ne for lunch? That’s just weird. It has to be 2am and I have to be drunk to want to eat their food
- The black bean sauce doesn’t have any meat!? That’s not right
- The fried rice is nothing special… and I don’t taste this so called “magic” that you claim happens
- The panchan is really mediocre
- I prefer to pay more money for my seafood. Sorry, some things shouldn’t be so cheap.
Al Bae Ne, 3470 W 6th St, 213-388-1105