In certain ways, Jacky Ren saved Bing Mi when it was on the verge of extinction. Between the closing of the Alder Street Food Carts and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fate of the jianbing cart, then closed, was uncertain. But in 2020, Ren — who moved to Portland from the Shandong province of China in 2016 — offered to buy out the rest of the owners and take over the business; the cart reopened in the Nob Hill Food Carts in Northwest Portland, with the sausage-and-cracker-filled, saucy crepes that helped develop its reputation. At the beginning of 2022, Ren will expand the Bing Mi brand even further, opening a Northern Chinese dumpling and noodle bar blocks away from the Bing Mi cart.
Bing Mi Dumpling & Noodle Bar will specialize in house-made noodles and dumplings, in particular zha jiang mian, a noodle dish tossed in a meaty, salty soybean sauce. The restaurant will serve both vegan mushroom and pork-belly-laden versions of the dish, an idea that helps cross-utilize some of the Bing Mi pantry staples. “Even though the cart and the restaurant are doing different things, certain ingredients are the same,” Ren says. “The bing sauce we make for the jianbing, we can use similar ingredients for the zha jiang mian — the soybean paste, the chile.”
Bing Mi’s dumpling menu will include at least three dumplings: one with pork and vegetables, one with seafood, and one that’s completely vegan. The bar will round out the menu with fried rice options, appetizers, and beverages like beer, cider, and wine, with rotating dumpling and noodle specials often hailing from North and Northwestern China. The menu is still in development, but Ren wants to focus on that specific region of China, using Oregon-made products whenever possible. “We’ve wanted to do more specific, regional Chinese dishes here, more local, and more handmade dishes,” Ren says. “I just want to bring more Chinese food I grew up eating (to Portland).”
Ren is hesitant to promise too much, however; the number of noodles and dumplings Bing Mi Dumpling and Noodle Bar serves will depend on how many people Ren can hire, to accommodate the house-made noodle and dumpling program. “We have these ideas, but it really comes down to how many people we have,” he says. “But I don’t want to do a big menu; I want to do everything well.”
Bing Mi Dumpling and Noodle Bar will open with limited hours in January at 2572 NW Vaughn Street.
• Bing Mi [Instagram]