Asian cooking, Cooking Recipes, I love Asian noodles, Korean food, My favourite things, Pastas & noodles, Pork dishes

Two ways to go crazy for Jjajangmyeon 짜장면



There are two things I picked up from the past few years of watching Korean dramas: an unexpected attachment to the language, and a constant craving for jjajangmyeon.

Jjajangmyeon (짜장면) is a popular Chinese-Korean noodle dish with a thick stir-fried black bean sauce on top. ‘Jjajang’ literally means fried sauce in Korean, with ‘myeon’ meaning noodles. Typically the sauce is loaded with potatoes, zucchini, carrots, a bit of pork, and lots of onions. The black bean sauce is salty, but the Korean style of cooking this noodle dish requires a bit of sugar for some slight caramel notes. It creates a nice contrast in flavours.

Funny trivia about this dish is that it’s eaten by singles after Korean Valentine’s Day to signify their status! The day is even called Black Day, which makes jjajangmyeon the perfect black “mourning” dish haha!



Why is it that every time there’s a scene in a drama where this dish is to be eaten, the actors have to do it with such gusto that makes you lick your lips in desire too? I’ve literally never craved anything so strongly than after watching kdrama actors inhale their noodles on dramas.

I remember watching this intense scene from the series Punch where the main character (played by Kim Rae Won) was negotiating a life and death matter with his former-mentor-now-nemesis in this small restaurant. I remember feeling how the tension between them could be cut with a knife it was so thick. And then he started to eat some jjajangmyeon.

Suddenly all I could focus on were the damn noodles!



It starts with the way they mix the noodles together, creating that juicy melody of thick sauce and noodles plopping against each other. And then they pick up a HUGE portion of jjajangyeon with chopsticks, take a real deep breath, and slurp like there’s no tomorrow. They don’t even care if the black sauce gets all over their face. (In fact some of them have become experts at eating this dish they don’t get any of the sauce on their faces at all!)

Literally in one breath, inhaling the noodles. Prime example, this scene from kdrama ‘Let’s Eat’ below:

Tell me if that hasn’t made you want to grab the noodles out of the screen! I’ve never seen anything eaten with so much pleasure!

To make this, the two main things you’ll have to get from the Korean grocery store is the ‘chunjang’ (춘장) or black soybean paste, as well as the white wheat noodles called ‘sutamyeon’ (수타면).



These hand-kneaded noodles are a bit thicker than regular Chinese egg noodles and they have this firm and chewy texture. They also feel a bit more umm… rubbery I guess, compared to the usual Asian noodles. I like how they have a nice bite to them.



The brand of chunjang I got was enough to make two recipes, and it just so happened I did actually find during my research two recipes I liked with two different cooking methods. I decided I’d try both and see which jjajangmyeon recipe I’ll end up liking more.

After making both, I decided on one rule for all the future jjajangmyeon’s I will be cooking: The chunkier the better. I like it better if the diced veggies are chunkier in size so that I can pick them up with my chopsticks. It also gives me something else to chew on alongside the noodles. The first time I made this, the size of my diced vegetables were so small you can barely tell them apart from the diced pork, so I changed it the second time around for a more chunky effect. (Actually it’s not chunky enough still.)



The first recipe is kind of like a one-bowl type in that you just keep adding things into the wok until you complete your jjajang sauce. The most interesting part is when the black bean paste is getting stir-fried right in the middle of all the vegetables before it’s mixed all together.

Between the two, this is the easier and less time-consuming version for me. This jjajangmyeon is a combination of salty and sweet but it gets a nice boost in richness and umami too thanks to the oyster sauce.

Jjajangmyeon 짜장면 1.0
A Chinese-Korean noodle dish featuring a thick stir-fried black bean sauce. The best way to eat it is to slurp it all in and get the black bean beard!

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons (30mL) vegetable oil, divided use
  2. 140 grams (5 oz) pork, diced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 medium potato, diced
  5. 1 to 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  6. 1/3 medium zucchini, diced
  7. 3 tablespoons (45mL) black bean paste (chunjang 춘장)
  8. 1 tablespoon (12 grams) sugar
  9. 1 1/3 cup (320mL) water
  10. 2 teaspoons (10mL) oyster sauce
  11. 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
  12. 14 ounces (200 grams) fresh jjajang noodles (or rice if jjajangbop is preferred)
  13. Salt and pepper
  14. Slices of cucumber, for topping
Instructions
  1. 1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large wok over medium high heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant but not browned. Add in diced pork, then season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes until pork is half-done.
  2. 2. Add the potatoes and cook for about 3 minutes. Add onions and zucchini, then stir fry for another 3 minutes.
  3. 3. Push aside the vegetables to make a well in the center of the frying pan. Place the black bean paste in the middle and add the other tablespoon of vegetable oil, plus the sugar. Run your spatula on the sauce constantly in a circular motion to stir fry it for about 3 minutes. Once the black bean paste is ready it will start smelling really good.
  4. 4. Mix the sauce into the veggies until everything in the wok is well covered with the sauce. Add in the water and oyster sauce, then stir until combined. The sauce will be runny at this point. Bring the sauce to a near-boil.
  5. 5. Right before the sauce comes to a full boil, add in starch water slurry and mix until fully combined. (Never add cornstarch directly into the pan as it will not dissolve very well.) Let the sauce boil for about a minute more, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened.
  6. 6. Meanwhile, cook the jjajang noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and wash with cold water to avoid sticking. (If going for jjajangbop, prepare the rice and divide among individual bowls.)
  7. 7. Divide the noodles among individual bowls and top generously with the thickened jjajang sauce. Top with sliced cucumber. Before eating, make sure to mix noodles and sauce together, then slurp away!
Adapted from Eugenie Kitchen blog
The Tummy Train http://thetummytrain.com/
The second recipe is a little more straightforward, but it will also dirty more plates. Here, you actually stir-fry just the black bean paste first, take it out of the wok and put into a plate, and then cook the rest of the sauce ingredients before adding the paste back in. It’s not difficult at all but the procedure is a little longer.

This one produces a more unadulterated black bean-flavoured sauce. If you find the sauce to be a little too thick then just add about a quarter cup of water at a time until you get your desired consistency.

Jjajangmyeon 짜장면 2.0
A Chinese-Korean noodle dish featuring a thick stir-fried black bean sauce. The best way to eat it is to slurp it all in and get the black bean beard!

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish
Print
For the pork
  1. 300 grams diced pork
  2. 1/2 Tablespoon mirin
  3. Pinch of salt and pepper
  4. 1/8 teaspoon ginger powder
For the noodles
  1. 3 Tablespoons cooking oil
  2. 3 Tablespoons black bean paste (chunjang 춘장)
  3. 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  4. 2 Tablespoons mirin
  5. 1 large onion, diced
  6. 1/2 medium zucchini, diced
  7. 1 large potato, diced
  8. 3 large button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  9. ¼ small cabbage, thinly sliced
  10. 1 cup water (or half water, half chicken stock for more flavour)
  11. 2 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons water
  12. 14 ounces (200 grams) fresh jjajang noodles (or rice if jjajangbop is preferred)
  13. Slices of cucumber, for topping
Instructions
  1. 1. In a bowl, add pork along with the seasonings. Mix well and leave for 15 minutes.
  2. 2. Heat the wok over medium heat and add the cooking oil and black bean paste. Stir constantly 3 to 5 minutes but don't let it burn. Add the brown sugar and stir for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. 3. Scoop out the black bean paste without the oil and place in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. 4. Add the marinated pork into the wok and stir until the pork is half cooked. Add the onion, zucchini, and potato and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes, or until halfway cooked. Add the mushrooms and cabbages and stir-fry another 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. 5. Return the stir-fried black bean paste into the wok and mix with vegetables for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water and mirin, then simmer for about 5 minutes on medium heat. (Cover with a lid to make the cooking process faster.)
  6. 6. Add the starch water slurry into the wok then stir until completely combined. (Never add cornstarch directly into the pan as it will not dissolve very well.) Leave the sauce to simmer until thickened.
  7. 7. Meanwhile, cook the jjajang noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles and wash with cold water to avoid sticking. (If going for jjajangbop, prepare the rice in individual bowls.)
  8. 8. Divide the noodles among individual bowls and top generously with the thickened jjajang sauce. Top with sliced cucumber. Before eating, make sure to mix noodles and sauce together, then slurp away!
Adapted from My Korean Kitchen blog
The Tummy Train http://thetummytrain.com/
Both recipes were wonderful though I have to admit I liked version 1.0 just a tad better than the second one! I felt like it was more intense in terms of its flavour and it had more dimensions than just tasting like black bean sauce. It’s also not too runny nor is it too thick, and it clings on to every bit of the noodles and does not let go. (Actually both recipes do!)



Either way, you can pick one from the recipes above that you feel is a bit easier for you (or maybe make a combination of both!) and use that to try making jjajangmyeon right at home. I honestly cannot wait to fly to Seoul and drag my friends over to a good jjajangmyeon shop while there. I’m prepared to have my mind and tastebuds blown!



I practice the Asian habit of slurping noodles because it really makes the eating experience more enjoyable for me. I feel like you don’t do ramen or these kinds of noodles any justice if you don’t slurp a mouthful of them all at once and chew it slowly until your extra chubby cheeks are gone. Once your meal is done, you’ll be wearing a black jjajangmyeon beard! The mark of a plate of jjajangmyeon enjoyed with abandon!

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