Jjajangmeyon (Korean Chinese black bean noodles)
by Phillip Koh
Jjajangmyeon (or Jajangmyeon) is a Korean food favorite that is super popular in South Korea. Kids love it, and so do majority of population in Korea. I grew up eating this dish when I was a little kid in Seoul, I still remember the delivery drivers in scooters that carries a metal box with this hot jjajangmyeon in it or Jjampong in it. I mean they had a job class across the entire country that serves pretty much this dish (and one or two more to lesser degree) so you can imagine how popular this dish is in Korea. So I, for a long time fantasized about cooking this at home, since I live not only in America, but Jacksonville, which does not have a lot of korean restaurants and that doesn’t guarantee they will have this either, not to mention then I have to fine one that does this well. So I am in a perfect situation where making this dish at home might make sense. And it was. I waited a long while for a few reasons at first I thought it was one of those things only the “pros” make, and that it is really hard. Second I didn’t even know if I can make it with ingredients that are available. Third I wanted to wait until I purchased and was actually making home made pasta / noodle. The reason I wanted to wait until I can make noodles at home is this. Even in Korea, and in rare places like San Francisco, the best of the Korean Chinese restaurants (Korean style Chinese restaurants which this dish category falls under) use Suta gooksu (handmade noodles) I was 100 percent sure I wont bother with the traditional noodlemaking methods, but I knew the power of the handmade / homemade noodles. They are by far the best when it comes to taste. I wasn’t about to invent the jjajangmyeon recipe either, as youtube celebrities like Maangchi have amazing and realistic recipes online on youtube. I am basically using Maangchi’s Recipe, but I modified it slightly (or may differ a little bit, and of course, I used the home made noodles, which I thought was the only way to really beat the recipes by Maangchi, who has the best recipe online in my opinion at least as far as I know (click here for alternate vegan/vegetarian recipe: Mommy Tang’s Jjajangmyeon Recipe) I do lay out my modified recipe here on my blog:
Korean Jajangmyeon noodles (you can find this at Korean grocery store, frozen section usually and possibly dried food section, or use Udon noodles you can buy at the store or online, they are similar and some are for those dual purposes – Korean style jjajang sauce / jjajangmyeon and Japanese style Udon noodles)
1/2 pound pork belly (or pork shoulder) cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about a cup and a half)
1 cup of Korean radish (or daikon) cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
1 cup of zucchini (or korean squash) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of potato (or sweet potato) cleaned, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 & 1/2 cups onion cut into cubes/chunks
3 tablespoons of peanut oil (vegetable oil if you don’t have peanut oil)
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon of Korean black bean paste
2 tablespoons of potato starch powder, combined with 1/4 cup water and 1 teasopoon of sugar in a seperate bowl set aside
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/2 cup cucumber, cut into julienne cut / matchsticks (optional and more for garnish)
2 cups (or more) of water
(headed) cabbage: add a half cup of cabbage plus a small pinch more salt to this recipe, or replace Korean/Asian radish with a full cup of cabbage (if it’s too hard to find them)
- Stir-fry pork in a wok or a pan with a tablespoon of peanut oil for a few minutes, about 5 minutes or until they look brown and starting to look crispy
- pour out excess fat
- add korean/asian/daikon radish and stir fry for a minute
- add potato, onion, and zucchini and stir fry for 2-4 minutes until potato is translucent
- make a space in the middle of the pan / wok with a wooden spoon.
- add 2 tablespoons of oil to the middle part
- add 1/4 cup or a bit more of black bean paste in the space with a small oil ‘puddle’ and stir with wooden spoon. for another minute or two.
- mix everything and spread the black bean paste unto all the veggies.
- add 2 cups of water to the pan / wok
- reduce heat to low to low-medium, close the lid.
- cook/simmer for another 10-12 more minutes
- Salt to taste (this is what is mainly different) I would add at least a half to a full teaspoon of kosher or seasalt, as I believe adding a bit of salt brings out the black bean paste flavor better.
- open the lid, taste radish and potato. if they are just starting to be fully cooked but certainly not overcooked, then add the starch water (Starch water is 2 tablespoon of potato starch plus a teaspoon of sugar and mixed with 1/4 cup of water. the starch water hardens really quickly forming a thick barrier between the starch base and water on top, so I recommend you make the starch water right before you put them in, at this stage. have the water ready, add sugar, mix it, and then add the 2 tablespoons gradually while you whisk them, and when they are all mixed, put the whole mixed starch water into the pan at this late stage)
- stir the jjajang sauce in the wok/pan well while the liquid gradually hardens.
- turn off the heat when the consistency is thicker but not pasty. (experience will sharpen the skill and you’ll learn when to turn them off exactly as you have done this a couple of times.)
- remove from heat, and serve over jjajangmeyon style noodles, serve with cucumber matchsticks for garnish on top(totally optional), with Danmuji (korean yellow picked radish) note that this picked radish adds tons of flavor when served with jjajangmyon so it’s pretty much a must compliment.