Jajangmyeon (noodles w black bean sauce)–one of my favorite dishes that I usually prefer ordering because it’s cheap, fast, and always good–was on the menu for this week as I go through my personal repertoire of recipes at my friend’s home. With a kid in the house and healthy eating a priority, this is not a dish I would make frequently for anyone, including adults, as it’s loaded with enough sodium and calories to carry over to the next meal. However, tweaking the recipe can make it “healthier,” while at the same time lessening the post-meal guilt trip that comes with eating most joonghwa yori 중화 요리 (Korean-Chinese cuisine). For example, this particular recipe includes a generous amount of vegetables and freshly made flour noodles randomly discovered at a local noodle shop. Being pretty versatile, you can substitute the standard pork protein with seafood, beef, or even chicken, and don’t hesitate to mix-and-match your vegetables to your liking. Whether ordering by delivery or making it at home, there’s nothing better than a hearty and comforting bowl of noodles in a rich, savory black bean sauce.
For those unfamiliar with jajangmyeon, this is a very popular and fairly inexpensive Korean-Chinese “fast food” dish that can be literally be ordered within minutes (no kidding!). Other popular dishes include a spicy bowl of noodles and seafood called jangbbong and another favorite of mine, tangsuyuk (sweet n sour pork). There are quite a few variations of jajangmyeon, which include gan jajangmyeon, a jajangmyeon served with the jajang sauce without the starch (sauce and noodles being served separately in different bowls); samseon jajangmyeon, which incorporates seafood such as squid, shrimp, and shellfish; and lastly jajangbap, which is essentially the same dish as jajangmyeon with rice taking the place of noodles. Most dishes are typically served with a side of danmuji (yellow pickled radish) and raw pieces of onion with black bean sauce.
Funny back story about the quick delivery service: The delivery guys on scooters race in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds to achieve unbelievably quick delivery service. Back in the days when I owned a motorbike in Korea, I had the honor of meeting one of these delivery men personally as he blindsided me during rush hour. Luckily, there was no serious bodily harm done and my bike came out unscathed, so I let him off pretty easily with an innocent stare down.
“People who love to eat jajangmyeon are always the best people.” ~ Asian Julia Child
- 1 300 gram package of chunjang paste (jajangmyeon sauce)
- 1 lb diced pork (pork belly or pork chops work fine)
- 1 package of kalguksu or udon noodles (or jajangmyeon noodles if available)
- 2 potatoes or sweet potatoes, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tbsp cornstarch + 1⁄4 cup cold water
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- cucumber, julienned (optional for garnish/topping)
- olive oil
- In a large wok or frying pan, saute the pork with some olive oil and minced garlic, cook until browned.
- Add chunjang paste to the mix and stir fry over high heat, 5 minutes.
- In a separate non-stick pan, stir fry the vegetables in olive oil, about 10 minutes or until cooked through.
- Combine the two ingredients into a larger sauce pan and add roughly 2 cups of water, enough to cover ingredients. Add more water if you like extra sauce. Bring to a rapid boil for a minute and then set at low heat.
- Lastly, add oyster sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and the cornstarch/water mixture to the jajang sauce. Be sure to stir in the cornstarch mixture to prevent clumping. The sauce will thicken within minutes.
- Cook the noodles according to package directions, but make sure to rinse well under cold water.
- Place noodles in a serving bowl, ladle sauce on top, and enjoy some awesome homemade jajangmyeon!