As promised in response to my don’t-want-to-study-for-finals Facebook polling a few weeks back, here is the long-awaited recipe for my Zhajiangmian. This is a good recipe to closely follow my Braised Sichuan Eggplant because 4 out of 5 of the seasonings in this recipe are the exact same! Score! Now please, if you’ve been wavering on buying those jars of Guilin chili sauce and ground bean sauce… run out and buy them now! This recipe has been hungry girl friend-tested (I’m looking at you, Monica) and I think it’s a solid winner.
1. Shitake mushrooms, diced 2. Ground pork, shallots
Zhajiangmian translates to “fried sauce noodles”, which is kind of a weird but apt description of a noodle dish that’s a staple to both Chinese and Korean (Jajangmyeon) cuisine. Minced pork is stir-fried with some variety of onion (spring onion, red onion, shallot, pearl onion, etc) in some sort of soybean-based paste or sauce. Paired with refreshing cucumber and carrot and mixed into soba or other thin noodles of your choice, this dish just bursts with all sorts of happy-belly flavors.
A short aside: Contrary to popular belief, not all is perfect in Med Student Kitchen and not every step of the way is smooth and well-executed and streamlined. I’ve had batter splatter all over my iPad and phone and hair, I’ve burned shrimp past the point of blackened oblivion, and I’ve actually made things that were complete failures. It’s just that no one ever sees this evidence! For me, cooking and baking is really just experimenting until you find things that consistently work and you build up your repertoire with experience and a healthy amount of serious derping.
The last time I made this Zhajiangmian recipe, I completely forgot to pre-soak my shitake mushrooms and found myself starving and in dangerous grumpy mode. And out of this, I discovered that in a jam, or a legitimate (includes hunger-induced hallucinatory) inability to wait 30 minutes, you can nuke your dried shitakes in a bowl of (preferably hot) water until they yield to your awaiting knife. Plop your shrooms in a bowl of water and stick them in the microwave for 3 minutes. Flip them over to the other side and nuke for another 3 minutes. 6 minutes is a lot better for your sanity than 30 minutes (winning!!) and you can prep your other veggies and ingredients while waiting for the microwave to do its magic. The woody stems might be a little tough to lop off but a little aggression with the knife wouldn’t hurt in this case.
The sauce keeps well in the fridge and can be scaled up to extend your cooking efforts into multiple meals. For ultimate time saving, you can make the noodles ahead of time too. Just make sure to rinse them under cold water as soon as you drain them after cooking so they don’t stick together. To reheat cold noodles, add a teaspoon of sesame oil and 1 TBSP of water and microwave for 1-2 minutes.
A new feature is on my blog today – to keep track of my notes on ingredients you might not already have in your kitchen and how to make them worth buying and keeping in your pantry, I’ve incorporated a new tab/page at the top navigation bar (“INGREDIENTS”). This includes an alphabetized catalog of “special” ingredients used in my recipes. I’ll still include notes at the bottom of each recipe, but for your future handy access, you can reference them at this page from now on! Yippee.
For handy printable recipe, click HERE
Prep time: 5-30 min
Cook time: 10 min
- ½ lb. lean ground pork
- 8 shitake mushrooms, diced
- 1 cup diced shallots or red onion
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 2 Persian cucumbers, grated
- ½ lb. buckwheat soba noodles, thin spaghetti, or noodles of choice
- 1 TBSP cooking oil
- 2 TBSP ground bean sauce
- 1 TBSP Guilin style chili sauce
- ½ TBSP black bean garlic sauce
- 1 TBSP hoisin sauce
- ½ TBSP rice vinegar
- 1 tsp cornstarch + 2 TBSP water
- 1 tsp sesame oil, divided
- If using dried shitake mushrooms, soak in hot water for 30 minutes, flipping them over at 15min. Remove woody stems and finely dice. For lazy/don’t-have-30-minutes-to-wait-version, place mushrooms in a microwavable bowl and fill with water. Microwave for 3 minutes. Flip mushrooms over and microwave for another 3 minutes. For fresh shitakes, simply dice and set aside.
- While prepping other ingredients, bring a salted pot of water to boil and cook soba noodles or other noodles of choice following package directions. When noodles are cooked (al dente), drain water and rinse noodles in a strainer under cold water to prevent noodles from sticking together.
- Roughly dice shallots (or red onion). Shred carrots and Persian cucumbers using a grater or by slicing into thin matchsticks.
- Heat 1 TBSP oil in a non-stick pan. Add 2 TBSP ground bean sauce to the hot oil and let sizzle on high heat for a few seconds. Add shallots or red onion and stir-fry until slightly translucent. Add diced shitake mushrooms and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add ground pork and brown meat, stirring occasionally, until almost no more pink is visible. Add remaining seasonings (Guilin style chili sauce, black bean garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar). Mix 1 tsp cornstarch with 2 TBSP water, and add mixture to pan, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and sauté uncovered for 2-3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Divide noodles into bowls and arrange grated carrots and cucumbers on top. Spoon sautéed pork, mushroom, and shallot sauce on top of noodles. To each bowl, drizzle ½ tsp sesame oil. Mix everything in the bowl together and serve immediately.
Notes on ingredients & ideas for future use
Black bean garlic sauce: A fermented black soybean paste with garlic and soy sauce. Incredibly versatile in Chinese stir-fried dishes. It’s perfectly salty and pungent.
- Stir fry with bell peppers, onions, and any type of protein you want – beef, pork, fish filets, chicken, etc
- Use to steam catfish (recipe coming soon)
Ground bean sauce: A fermented soybean paste that adds an incredible burst of umami to various Chinese stir-fried dishes. Super versatile – I like the Koon Chun brand. This is readily available at Asian grocers.
- Add some to ramen noodles for an extra kick
- Use in sautéing sliced beef and Chinese broccoli
- Other recipes: Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant
Guilin-style chili sauce: A chili sauce made with fresh chili, garlic, and fermented soybeans. I like the Lee Kum Kee brand, which I have been able to find easily at Asian grocery stores even out here in Missouri.
- Sauté vegetables (e.g. broccoli) with some garlic and this chili sauce
- Use in making mapo tofu
- Use as a dipping sauce (with Chinese vinegar) for dumplings or potstickers
- Other recipes: Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant
Hoisin sauce: A sweet, soybean-based popular condiment for pho, barbequed pork, mushu pork, etc.
- Use as a flavoring for sautéed vegetables
- Add to soupy noodles!
- Use in a marinade for chicken
- Recipes: Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant
Shitake mushrooms: These come in both fresh and dried varieties. The dried ones can keep in the pantry indefinitely and I like to keep these on hand. These need to be pre-soaked before cooking (see my recipe for Zhajiangmian for a clever microwave trick to save time)
- Regular soaking method: soak in hot water for 30 minutes, flipping over to the other side halfway through
- Lazy/Ain’t-Nobody-Got-30-Minutes method: Place mushrooms in a bowl of hot water and microwave for 3 minutes on each side
- Even lazier pre-soak method: Pre-soak and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (be sure to drain water before storing)
- Recipes: Braised Spicy Sichuan Eggplant, Hot and Sour Soup