While items like bulgogi, bibim bap, and japchae have become quite familiar to Korean food lovers here in the States, there is a lesser known subsection of Korean cuisine that is quite popular with Koreans everywhere: Chinese-Korean.
And one of the most popular dishes from Chinese-Korean cuisine is a noodle dish called jjajang myun, literally black bean paste (jjajang) noodles (myun).
It’s many a Korean kid’s spaghetti, and I ate it all the time when I was little (and loved it!).
Black bean paste in both Chinese and Korean cuisines has a very salty, nutty, toasty, deep, rich umami to it, and though it looks and tastes a little intimidating right out of the jar, it’s delicious when used in the right quantities and mellowed by other ingredients and cooking techniques.
In this dish, it’s mixed with sauteed pork, onions, carrots, zucchini, and potatoes in a deliciously savory sauce served over noodles.
When I don’t have chow mein noodles on hand (which I usually don’t because that means a 45 minute drive to the Asian market), I serve the sauce over spaghetti noodles cooked 3 or 4 minutes past al dente to mimic the softer texture of chow mein noodles. Rice is also commonly used in lieu of noodles in many Korean households, but in that case, you’d call it jjajang bap (bap meaning rice) instead of jjajang myun.
Julienned cucumbers are a typical garnish to add refreshing crunch, and kimchi and dakuang (a sweet-salty pickled daikon dyed bright yellow) are usually served on the side.
Basic Jjajang Sauce Recipe
Time: About 30 minutes
Makes 3 to 4 servings
– vegetable oil
– 1 medium onion chopped into 1/4″ dice (about 1 cup)
– 1 large carrot cut into 1/4″ cubes (about 1 cup)
– 1 medium zucchini cut into 1/4″ cubes (about 1 cup)
– 1 medium potato cut into 1/4″ cubes (about 1 cup)
– 1 pound pork shoulder cut into 1/4″ cubes and tossed with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 Tablespoon corn starch (or 3/4 Tablespoon potato starch)
– 1 Tablespoon corn starch (or 3/4 Tablespoon potatoe starch) slurried in 2.5 Tablespoons cold water
– 1/3 cup jjajang (Korean black bean paste)
– 1 3/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (or 1 2/3 cups water)
– 1 Tablespoon sugar
1) In a large pot, saute the vegetables in 2 or 3 batches, using 2 teaspoons of oil per batch, over slightly higher than medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
2) In the same pot, add 1.5 Tablespoons oil, turn the heat up to medium high, and saute the meat for 4 to 5 minutes, until most of the pieces have a dark golden brown sear on them.
3) Pour in the black bean paste, water, sugar, and starch slurry, and story thoroughly to break up the paste and evenly distribute all the ingredients. Make sure to scrape the bottom to release any fond.
4) Bring the sauce up to a gentle boil for about 2 minutes, then cover and reduce heat to medium low and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
At this point, give the sauce a taste, and if it’s a little too salty, add water in Tablespoonfuls to adjust the flavor. (The salt in such salty condiments as black bean paste can intensify exponentially past a certain point in cooking.)
Cut the heat and allow the sauce to cool and set for 5 minutes or so before ladling it over your noodles or rice.