Noodle Tuesday: Ireh, sesame leaf hand-shaved noodles and chewing noodles
Find ultimate Korean food comfort at Ireh, where the noodle variety blows a mind previously confined to Korean noodle standards like jap chae and the occasional ja jiang myun. At Ireh, there are noodle dishes not found elsewhere in town: "chewing noodle," sesame-leaf hand shaved noodles, noodles in cold soy milk or red bean broth.
A Korean friend sees Ireh as more of a snack shop than a restaurant, a place you can go anytime, morning to night (it's usually open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., sometimes later), for something soothing, made by Korean aunties, and cheap, with most items around $10.
Chewing noodles are exactly that, extra elastic, chewy noodles made with potato starch (gluten-free). Get them cold, tossed in a spicy sauce and topped with shredded cabbage, cucumbers and crushed peanuts, or if you want to give the jaw muscles an intense workout, order them mixed with topokki, more chewiness in the form of rice cakes.
Sesame leaf hand shaved noodles in kimchi broth
Soochaebi, or sesame leaf hand shaved noodles (more like shards than noodles—"dough flakes" is the literal translation), retain a pleasant doughiness and are green and herby with the Korean version of shiso.
Refreshment awaits in the "bean noodle"—noodles bathed in a generously wide bowl of fresh, cold soy milk, made by blending to order soybeans, sesame and peanuts for a creamy and nutty effect. Those drawn to Korean food for its loud spices and fiery heat may find it bland, but I find cool comfort in them.
For dressed down street food, nothing is more humble and addictive than a dish of dukbokki and ramen (Korean instant ramen, flavor packet and all).
Note for the vegans and vegetarians: Ireh bills itself as a healthy restaurant, with lots of vegetarian options, and even a vegetable bibimbap on quinoa instead of rice (just ask them to leave out the fish eggs).
Don't miss out on the mandoo, homemade and either boiled or pan-fried, and take a cue from everyone else finishing dinner with pat bing soo, Korean-style shave ice drenched in condensed milk, layered with a roasted soybean powder and topped with red bean and mochi laced with just a touch of salt.
I don't know which I find more addicting, this pat bing soo, or the Korean drama Bread, Love and Dreams playing on the TV screen at Ireh.
Ireh, 911 Keeaumoku St., 943-6000, irehrestaurant.com