Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jjajangmyun (짜장면)

I'm so excited about this post! I'm finally sharing my recipe for jjajangmyun, or noodles with black bean sauce, which is probably the most popular dish in Korea. Jjajangmyun is a Chinese/Korean hybrid dish, created by Chinese immigrants in Korea in the early 1900s. Koreans prepare the dish a bit differently, using Korean black bean paste (chunjang). The best thing about jjajangmyun (in my opinion) are the hand pulled noodles, which is why I prefer going out over making the dish myself since I don't have the skill to make the noodles.

There are different types of jjajang sauce, which you might see when you go to a jjajangmyun restaurant. There's the default sauce, which is usually made with pork, but some places offer a seafood version (삼선짜장면, sam-sun jjajangmyun), a vegetarian version, and even a "fire" version (불짜장면, bool jjajangmyun, which is super spicy). The fire version is usually served with the sauce on the side so that the patron can portion out the sauce according to how much spice he or she can handle. You could potentially ask for any version with the sauce on the side, which is referred to as "간짜장면," or gan jjajangmyun.

There is also 짜장밥, or jjajangbahp, which is rice (Korean sticky rice) with jjajang sauce on top and even 짜장떡볶이, jjajang ddukbokki, which is rice cakes made with the jjajang sauce. And, for those of you in a hurry, there is a ramen version; the two brands I know (and have tried) are "Chapaghetti" which is made by Nong Shim and "Chacharoni" which is made by Sam Yang. The difference between the two? Taste-wise, not much of a difference but Chapaghetti comes with a brown powder and oil (which become the jjajang sauce) and Chacharoni comes with a brown paste instead.

Today, I'm sharing the default pork version, but if you are a vegetarian, you can omit the pork and just make sure the chunjang or jjajang you are using doesn't contain any meat.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
4 servings of jjajangmyun noodles, fresh preferably*
1/3 cup black bean paste (jjajang) - this is a specialty ingredient that is typically not sold in a normal American grocery store so you will have to go to an Asian market for this one
2 cups water + 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced potato (1 small potato)
1/2 cup diced zucchini (about 1 zucchini)
1/2 cup diced pork (about 2 thin-sliced pork chops)**
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

*I think the udon noodles, made by Nasoya, are a great substitute if you can't find jjajangmyun noodles and are probably available in your local grocery store. In my market, I found them near the tofu and were shelved next to the fresh wonton wrappers.
**I used pork chops because they were on sale but you could use pork belly or even the meat off of pork ribs, whatever you like. Or you can substitute in seafood if you prefer.
Start by preparing the vegetables and chopping up the meat. I cut everything into little pieces, about 1/2" or smaller.

Then heat up a pot with 1 teaspoon of oil over a low heat. Add in the pork and let it cook through a bit and then add in onions, zucchini, and potatoes. Drizzle in some sesame oil and toss to coat. Let the ingredients cook for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent.
Once the onions are translucent, remove the vegetables from pot. I obviously neglected to do a thorough job, as I left a few pieces in the pot but I was lazy. The point here is to clear enough space for the next step so if you want to be a little lazy too, it's perfectly fine!
Add in 1 more teaspoon of vegetable oil and then dump in the black bean paste. Press it down with your spoon into the oil to "fry" it - which is appropriate because "jjajang" means "fried sauce." After the sauce has been frying for a minute or so, add in 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir. Next, return the vegetables to the pot and gently stir to coat everything in the sauce. Then, pour in 2 cups of water.
Stir to incorporate the water into the sauce. Cover the pot with a lid and let it come to a boil. Continue to allow the sauce to boil until the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Test the tenderness by grabbing a potato and having a taste.
Now it's time to thicken the sauce. Mix together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water until it's smooth.
Carefully pour in the starch and water mixture and stir until it's fully incorporated. Keep stirring as the sauce thickens. The sauce will reach its full thickness potential when it comes to a boil so allow the sauce to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer to keep it warm while you make the noodles.
Boil a large pot of water and cook the noodles; fresh noodles only take a few minutes to cook. Then drain and rinse in cold water.
Pile some noodles into a bowl and then drown them in some sauce.
Doesn't this look delicious? Most restaurants will garnish the jjajangmyun with julienned cucumber but I absolutely HATE that so I leave them out. However, it does make a pretty presentation so you can do so if you wish.
Oh, and most jjajangmyun restaurants will serve a plate of raw onion, yellow pickled radish, and jjajang sauce as well as ggakdoogi kimchi (cubed radish kimchi). I'm not a big fan of the raw onion/pickled radish/jjajang but I do love the ggakdoogi.
Eating jjajangmyun, if you've never had it before, is much like spaghetti. Mix the sauce into the noodles and enjoy. And the #1 rule: don't wear white because you WILL splatter on yourself.
Here's the recipe page:
This post is also a small tribute to a friend I lost recently. While I was still living in Manhattan, our little group of 3 would always venture out for "jjm" as we affectionately referred to jjajangmyun. Love you and miss you.

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