Growing up as a kid that only who only eats bland food, such as fish soup and noodles, I was never a fan of Zha jiang mian (炸醬麵) or “fried sauce noodles”. It’s a famous noodle dish across China, originated from the north, hence there are quite a few variations out there. What are the differences between each region’s sauce? The ratio of the pastes, the ingredients, types of noodles, toppings…etc.
Now that I’ve learnt to appreciate the bold flavors zha jiang mian, it is one of the dishes that I always ask my aunt to make when I go home (Yes… she’s better than my mom at this). The dish might seems quite complicated, but the cooking time is rather quite fast!
It is somewhat like a Chinese bolognese or pork gravy. Before adding the sauce, cut pork, bean curds, carrots, and bamboo shoots into cubes, and stir fry in a rather deep-dished pan. Chinese zha jiang mian uses ground pork, but we like chunkier texture, hence we cut the ingredients in cubes.
For the sauce, the essence of majority of Asian cuisines, it’s a mix of bean paste and sweet bean sauce, which is less salty and slightly sweet. Before adding water, the pastes are lightly “fried” in the pan and evenly coated with the ingredients. Then, equal amount of water is added, and let it simmer till the sauce becomes thick again. Lastly, a spoonful of thick tahini (white sesame) paste! It makes the paste smoother, nuttier, and has a depth to the flavor!
Upon serving, we like to top with lots of julienned cucumbers. It does not only add crunchiness, but also lighten up the dish! Sometimes, for vegetarian version, we would use edamame, which is one of my personal favorites too.
Now, you might wonder what sets Taiwanese zha jiang mian and the mainland ones apart? Besides the ingredients in cubes form, the bean pastes and sauces used are different too. For example, Cantonese style uses spicy bean paste and tomato paste, seasons with vinegar, and tops with shredded carrots, while Beijing style uses yellow bean paste (dried and fresh), and sweet bean paste, top with bean sprouts, and some even add sesame oil. Taiwanese zha jiang mian has a nice balance of sweet and saltiness, and chunky ingredients made it more filling, not just gravy and noodles.
- 300 g Noodles
- 350 g Pork loin, cubed
- 3 pieces Five spiced dried bean curds, cubed
- 200 g Fresh bamboo shoots, cubed
- 1 Carrots, medium, cubed
- 3 Green onions, finely chopped
- 1 and ½ tablespoon Soy bean paste
- 1 and ½ tablespoon Sweet bean sauce
- 1~2 tablespoons White sesame paste
- ½ cup Water
- Fresh cucumbers, julienned (optional)
- In a deep sauté pan, add a tablespoon of oil, add spring onion and pork.
- Sauté until pork looks cooked from outside, then add bamboo shoots, dried bean curds, and carrots
- Sauté the ingredients for around 5 minutes
- Add soy bean paste, and sweet bean sauce
- Make sure the ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce, sauté for another 5 minutes
- Add water into the pan
- Bring it to boil, then simmer with the lid on until the liquid has reduced (to your desired consistency)
- Turn off the stove, cover the pan with lid and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes
- Meanwhile, bring another big pot of water to boil.
- Cook the noodles as instructed on the package
- Assemble the together by putting noodles, "zha jiang", and finished with cucumbers.
- Bon appétit!