Those of you who know the Chinese black bean noodle dish ‘Zhajiang mian’ ( ) may look at this and think that it looks awfully familiar. And, in fact, you’d be right!
This, dear readers, is the Korean version of that well-known Chinese dish, with the almost exact name of ‘jja-jjang myun’ (). While the two look quite similar, the ingredients and end flavours are somewhat different – but that tends to happen when one culture ‘adopts’ the dish of another and then recreates it to suite their own tastebuds!
The best way to describe this to the uninitiated is as the Korean equivalent of spaghetti bolognese. A thick, robust and flavoursome sauce with meat and veggies, carried by thick wheat noodles…its kinda similar, right? Well, that’s about as far as the similarities go, I’m afraid. This dish is pungent and salty, and one of the most common forms of ‘home-delivered fast food’ available in Korea. In fact, when you call to order a bowl of ‘jja-jjang myun’, not only will they deliver it piping hot to your front door, but it will also usually come with a few side dishes, all for a few dollars! And the added bonus? They even take the dishes away and clean them for you – no styrofoam or plastic to worry about, and you don’t even have to do the dishes!
Now, how’s that for value and service?
However, once you leave the homeland…well, its a little difficult to find this outside of a decent Korean restaurant, which means that the best option for anyone who is feeling just a little nostalgic for this dish is to just buckle down and make it themselves.
As for the problem of not having a recipe? There there, that’s what I’m here for, isn’t it?
Now before we get to the recipe, I should probably warn you that this is something of an acquired taste – the sauce is quite strong and if you aren’t expecting the salty, garlicky assault then you’ll probably be in for a bit of a shock (especially if you’re expecting anything like a spag bol. Actually, that was probably a really bad reference…and I guess I could go back and delete it…but I won’t!). However, if you’re a lover of strong, savoury flavours, then this is a dish that you will most likely fall in love with!
Although over here in the Southern hemisphere, its a bit too hot these days to have such a hot, hearty, carb-loaded meal, those among you who are in the Northern end of the world and looking with foreboding towards the oncoming days of snow, sleet and blistering winds should bear this dish in mind. Winter is, as most will agree, the perfect time to indulge in a little carb-heavy naughtiness, and this dish may be a great addition to your repertoire, and a lovely change from all those thick vegetable soups and heavier European pasta dishes.
Oh, and a word of advice? If you do get around to serving this up, be sure to have a small pile of napkins on hand. Like a good spag bol, this sauce has a tendency to half-coat the eater’s face, so its probably not a bad way to allow your diners the chance to mop up the extras before they go out to brave the cold. Or, depending on just how much of a messy eater they were, they might even be able to use the napkin to save some sauce for later – hah!
(Wheat noodles in black bean sauce)
Ingredients (serves 6)
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced brown onion
1/2 cup finely diced cabbage
1/2 cup finely diced zucchini
1/2 cup finely diced potato
1 thin-skinned sweet cucumber, julienned (Lebanese cucumbers are my favourite!)
300g-400g lean pork, diced (we tend to use pork neck)
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup ‘jja jjang’ (Korean salty black bean paste – there is no substitute!)
1 cup water
1 tbsp corn or potato starch
Thick wheat noodles, such as udon noodles, to serve
1. Heat a little oil in a large pot over medium heat, then saute the pork with the garlic till cooked. Remove the pork, heat a little more oil in the pot then add the carrot and potato and saute till almost cooked. Add the remaining vegetables and the cooked pork to the pot and saute till cooked.
2. Add the ‘jja jjang’ (black bean sauce) to the pot and ‘cook’ it for about 3-5 minutes while constantly stirring, till it is quite fragrant and the veggies are evenly coated. Stir the corn/potato starch into the water, then pour this also into the pot and bring it to the boil while constantly stirring, then lower the heat to a simmer and leave for another 10-15mins, or till the sauce has nicely thickened up.
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then boil your noodles as per the packet instructions. Once done, drain them well and divide into bowls. Pour a generous helping of the sauce over the top, then garnish with the sliced cucumber and serve with some sort of sweet pickle – traditionally, this is served with sliced sweet pickled daikon as an accompaniment, but as I’m a kimchi addict, I’m usually more than happy with that!
4. Enjoy with much hearty slurping and sauce-flicking. Don’t be tempted to try and eat this in a dainty fashion – one of the marks of a well-enjoyed bowl of ‘jja jjang myun’ is to be seen with a sauce-covered smile, so just loosen your belt a notch and dig right in!
P.S. A final note – if you have sauce left over and no noodles, there’s an easy solution! Just serve it over rice for a just as delicious bowl of ‘jja jjang bap’!
[tags]jja jjang myun, Korean cuisine, Chinese cuisine, cooking, food, recipes, Asian[/tags]