For those living in Korea, we’re spoiled with ultra quick delivery service that will literally have food at the door within minutes. This is especially true with jjajangmyeon 짜장면, the most popular Korean-Chinese dish available all-year round, 24 hours a day. On days when I’m too lazy to cook or eat out, jjajangmyeon never disappoints, and neither does tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) and jjambbong (spicy noodles packed with seafood) and bokkeumbap (fried rice), etc…
But, did you know that you can make close to a restaurant-quality version at home? Based on in-the-kitchen observations at Younghwaru 영화루, I was fortunate to see first-hand how this popular dish was made from start to finish. There, they add tons of Cheongyang peppers 청양고추 for extra heat, creating a well-balanced sauce that’s salty, sweet, savory, and spicy. I still remember sweating up a storm while desperately trying to pick out the chili peppers, which really didn’t help because they also add crushed chili peppers that’s unnoticeable to the eye. Nevertheless, now I always include some diced chili peppers and/or crushed Thai chili peppers for that extra kick. If you can’t handle spicy, just omit the chili peppers and enjoy the standard version with egg fried rice.
Note: Unless you have a commercial burner in your home — I’m gonna be completely honest with you — you will never be able to replicate the dishes coming from a restaurant, which will undoubtedly have that “bulmaht” 불맛 or intense smokiness. The ability to sweat out veggies (so they don’t essentially boil in their own liquid) can only be done on commercial burners. Standard home stoves just don’t produce enough BTU, which is why most, if not all, dishes that require stir-frying will taste differently at home versus restaurant. For that reason, this jjajang sauce is a cross between the regular version and gahn jjajang 간짜장; no stock was added but still resulted in a curry-like consistency due to the residual liquid from vegetables. Regardless, it was still damn tasty and now it’s on my weekly rotation of homemade meals. And due to personal preference, I enjoy bokkeumbap (fried rice) over wheat flour noodles with my jjajang, but ready-made jjajangmyeon noodles can be found in any Asian mart. The following sauce recipe is for two people. 😉
1️⃣ In a non-stick frying pan or wok, sauté approx. 3 tbsp black bean sauce (chunjang) in a generous amount of vegetable oil on high heat. Continuously stir until the black bean paste clumps and curdles, approx. 2 mins, then strain in a bowl and reuse oil. Note: after cooking several ways, I found straining to be optional and leeks can be sautéd with the sauce after it has curdled.
2️⃣ Add 1/2 cup diced leeks/green onions and sauté on high heat for about a minute. If you have 1 tsp fresh minced ginger, sauté them together until fragrant. Add chili oil for extra heat.
3️⃣ Add 1 cup of diced pork (pork belly or loin) and 1 tbsp Mirin (rice wine). Cheongju or soju works well too. Sauté until browned, 4 mins. Again, keep on high heat.
4️⃣ Add 1 cup diced onion and 1 cup diced zucchini plus handful Cheongyang peppers for extra heat. Sauté for a few minutes to draw out excess moisture. If you like your veggies cooked through, keep on heat source until it reaches desired texture.
5️⃣ Add sautéd black bean paste (chunjang) and remaining sauce ingredients: 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tbsp ginger powder, 1 tbsp chicken bouillon. Mix well on high heat for a minute or two then season to preferred taste before plating. Garnish with julienned cucumber or sunny-side up egg.
Note: For the egg fried rice, saute a handful of diced scallions in 2 tbsp vegetable oil. Saute until fragrant. Add two beaten eggs and scramble, crack in salt and pepper. Add in three cups of rice that’s been “dried” out, not sticky rice straight out of the cooker. Setting in the fridge for 30 mins will dry out the rice effectively. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce and mix thoroughly. To offset the saltiness of jjajangmyeon sauce, this version is slightly bland. Season to preference and feel free to add other vegetables to your liking. Diced onions, carrots, and zucchini work very well.