As mentioned in my last post on jjambbong (spicy noodle soup), this sweet and savory noodle dish, jajangmyeon (or jjajangmyeon), is another popular Korean-Chinese noodle dish. It’s a huge part of Korean food culture. Everyone loves it. Deeply embedded in the childhood memories of most Koreans, it is a well-loved dish that parents often treat their children to on special occasions, such as graduation, exam days, birthdays, etc. In recent years, jajangmyeon has become a symbolic dish that single people eat with their friends on Black Day to commiserate with each other over black noodles.
If you have the Korean black bean paste called chunjang (춘장), this dish is very easy to make at home. The black bean paste is first fried in oil. This process helps remove the bitter taste of the bean paste. The fried (or roasted) black bean paste is called jjajang (짜장). You can buy either one from most Korean markets. A little bit of sugar is important to balance out the bitterness and saltiness of the black bean paste. Pork is the classic option for the meat, but of course you can substitute it with any meat or seafood. The typical vegetables added are onion, cabbage, zucchini, and potato. I used good chicken stock to give the sauce extra flavor, but water is fine too.
12 – 14 ounces fresh jajangmyeon/udon noodles (See jjambbong recipe.)
4 ounces pork loin
1 tablespoon rice wine (or mirin)
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (optional)
salt and pepper
1 large onion 4 ounces cabbage
1/2 zucchini (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable oil)
cucumber matchsticks for garnish (optional)
1 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 tablespoon potato or corn starch*, dissolved in 1/4 cup of water
Have a pot of water ready to cook the noodles. Turn the heat on when you start cooking the meat. This way you will have the boiling water ready, for cooking the noodles, by the time the sauce is done.
Add the black bean paste to a small saucepan with the oil, sugar, and the optional oyster sauce. Fry it over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly. (If using pre-fried/roasted black bean paste, you can skip this process. Just add the sugar and the optional oyster sauce when stirring in the bean paste.)
Pour in the stock (or water) and bring it to a boil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the dissolved starch and cook briefly until the sauce is thickened. Add more sugar to taste. Add the noodles in the boiling water. Cook according to the package instructions and drain. Do not overcook. The noodles should have a firm bite to them. Place a serving size of noodles in each bowl. Spoon the sauce over the noodles and garnish with the optional cucumber matchsticks.