When I was growing up in Korea, jjajangmyeon was my go-to choice whenever my parents took me out for dinner. I was captivated by the sight of the jet-black, gravy-like sauce smothering the hand-pulled noodles. The moment my bowl arrived, I eagerly slurped up the saucy noodles, savoring each bite as if I could consume them all at once. Whether it was a moving day, a graduation, or a birthday party, I always found excuses to indulge in jjajangmyeon.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with various recipes in an attempt to recreate the flavors of the jjajangmyeon that captured my heart as a child. I recall that the sauce didn’t contain many vegetables, mainly cabbage and onions. However, it boasted generous chunks of pork, lending it a luscious and velvety texture reminiscent of a warm chocolate fudge sauce.
This jjajangmyeon recipe is a nostalgic homage to the dish of my childhood dreams, with a delightful twist. It exudes an irresistible umami flavor, providing a comforting and satisfying experience that is simply perfect for slurping.
What exactly is Jjajangmyeon?
Jjajangmyeon is a well-loved Korean-Chinese noodle dish that features a combination of jjajang sauce and fresh noodles, often hand-pulled. While it drew inspiration from the Chinese dish known as zha jiang mian, Korean immigrants adapted the flavors and cooking techniques to cater to the Korean palate. The modern rendition of jjajangmyeon took shape in Incheon Chinatown during the 1910s.
Jjajangmyeon is known for its robust umami taste, delightful saltiness, subtle sweetness, and a pleasing earthy undertone. As the dish can be a touch oily, it is commonly served with pickled yellow radish to counterbalance the richness of the sauce.
Making Jjajangmyeon Sauce at Home
Jjajangmyeon sauce, the heart of this delectable dish, is created using three essential ingredients: black bean paste (chunjang), meat, and vegetables.
Black bean paste, also known as chunjang, is responsible for the distinctive jet-black color of the sauce. It imparts a mildly earthy and salty flavor that forms the foundation of the jjajang sauce. Commercially available black bean paste often contains caramel, intensifying its darkness and adding a touch of sweetness to the final sauce.
The sauce-making process begins with stir-frying a combination of vegetables and meat. Various vegetables like potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, and onions are commonly used, while pork is a popular meat choice. Once the vegetables and meat are thoroughly cooked, the mixture is seasoned with chunjang, followed by the addition of water to create a flavorful broth. Finally, a slurry made from a mixture of starch and water is incorporated to achieve a desired thickness.
By skillfully combining black bean paste, meat, and vegetables through the stir-frying and seasoning process, the resulting jjajangmyeon sauce becomes a harmonious blend of flavors that elevates the entire dish to new heights.
Choosing the Ideal Noodle Variety
When it comes to jjajangmyeon, fresh wheat noodles are the preferred choice. However, dried wheat noodles, ramen noodles, rice noodles, and even somen can also be paired with jjajang sauce. In addition to noodles, the versatile jjajang sauce can be enjoyed over rice or mixed with chewy rice cakes to create jjajang tteokbokki.
Tips to Achieve Perfect Jjajangmyeon
- Sauté the vegetables to perfection: Take your time to stir-fry the vegetables until they are caramelized and tender. This step enhances the overall flavor of the sauce.
- Shallow-fry the chunjang: Instead of frying the black bean paste separately, gently fry it in the oil along with the vegetables. This method eliminates any slight bitterness and adds depth to the sauce.
- Get creative with garnishes: Experiment with different garnishes to enhance your jjajangmyeon. Consider adding julienned cucumber for a refreshing crunch or topping it off with a fried egg to add richness and flavor. If you crave some heat, sprinkle a bit of gochugaru for a spicy kick.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to create the best jjajangmyeon that satisfies your taste buds and impresses your dining companions.
- 1/2 medium-sized green cabbage, weighing approximately 10 ounces
- 2 medium-sized yellow onions
- 4 medium-sized scallions
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- 8 ounces of unsliced boneless, skinless pork belly or fatty pork loin
- 1 piece of peeled ginger, approximately 1 inch in size
- 1/4 cup of Korean black bean paste (chunjang or jjajang)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon powder
- 1 3/4 cups of water, divided
- 2 tablespoons of potato starch or cornstarch
- 1 medium-sized Persian cucumber
- 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- 7 ounces of fresh wheat noodles for jjajangmyeon or 2 ounces of dried noodles
- First, prepare the ingredients by adding them to a medium bowl as you go. Start by removing the core from half a green cabbage and cutting the leaves into 1-inch pieces until you have about 3 cups. Next, dice 2 medium yellow onions to make about 3 cups. Finally, finely chop 4 medium scallions to make about 2/3 cup.
- Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or wok over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the cabbage mixture and cook for 4-6 minutes until the onions are translucent and the cabbage is starting to brown. While this is cooking, cut 8 ounces of pork belly or pork loin into 1-inch pieces and peel and mince a 1-inch piece of ginger to make about 1 tablespoon.
- Add the pork and ginger to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes until the pork is no longer pink. Push everything to the sides of the pot to make a well in the center and add 1/4 cup of Korean black bean paste. Stir-fry the paste in the pool of oil for a few minutes before mixing it into the vegetables. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until everything is glossy and well coated.
- Incorporate 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon powder. Stir-fry the mixture until everything is well combined, typically taking 1 to 2 minutes.
- While this is simmering, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of potato starch or cornstarch in a small bowl. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat and cut a medium Persian cucumber into matchsticks.
- Stirring constantly, add the starch mixture to the pot with the sauce and simmer for another 2-3 minutes until it has thickened to a gravy-like consistency. Stir in a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and remove from heat.
- Add 7 ounces of fresh jjajangmyeon noodles (or 2 ounces of dried noodles) to the boiling water and cook following the instructions on the package. Once cooked, drain and rinse the noodles, then transfer them to 2 to 3 individual serving bowls. Pour the sauce generously over the noodles and garnish with cucumber slices. Toss the noodles with the sauce and cucumber before serving.
- Make ahead: You can prepare the sauce up to 3 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, gently reheat the sauce over low heat and pour it over freshly cooked noodles.
- Storage: For optimal storage, it is recommended to keep the leftover sauce and noodles separate, if possible. Store them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Watch How To Make Jjajangmyeon