I never liked jjajangmyun.
I know, crazy talk. My mom made it every now and then when I was a kid. As the rest of the family slurped away, I took bite after tentative bite wondering why my palate found it “just okay” and not as slurpingly good as the rest of the table. When I mention the dish to anyone who has had it, they swoon and speak of it lovingly and longingly.
To those unfamiliar with this dish, jjajangmyun is a VERY popular Korean-Chinese dish. It’s a dish that originated in China and has been adapted to suit the Korean palate. The sauce is made with a salty, tangy fermented black bean paste as its base and is chock full of vegetables and meat.
Anyway, I wanted to overcome this distaste for this ever-popular dish and try to make it myself.
Guess what happened?
It totally worked. I’m “cured”. My belly is happy.
Notes: The dish is typically made with beef or pork belly, but this can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat. My mom makes it with chicken thighs. Make sure the vegetables and meat are diced into uniform size; 1/2-inch is ideal. This ensures even cooking.
This dish is typically served with a side of takuan or danmuji (pickled radish) and raw diced onions. I never liked the takuan, but needed something tangy with a little bite. I threw together some diced onions and let them pickle in a mixture of white vinegar and a bit of sugar for a few hours to mellow out the onion.
Yields 4 servings.
8-12 ounces thick-cut bacon (or pork belly), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced potatoes (Yukon Gold are preferred)
1 cup diced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup black bean paste (jjajang)
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 portions of cooked and prepared kalguksu (Korean noodles)
1 small cucumber, julienned
1 – Heat a wok or a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the edges are browned.
2 – Spoon out the excess bacon grease, but leave 1-2 tablespoons of the grease in the pan.
3 – Add the carrots and potatoes and saute for 1-2 minutes.
4 – Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions turn translucent.
5 – Add the black bean paste to the pan and stir to combine. Make sure the meat and vegetables get evenly coated with the paste.
6 – Add 2 cups of water and bring to a high simmer.
7 – Make a corn starch slurry by whisking the corn starch into 1/4 water. Stir in the mixture to the simmering sauce.
8 – Let the sauce simmer until it thickens a bit, about 3-4 minutes. You want the sauce to cling to the noodles.
9 – Take the pan off the heat and stir in the sesame oil.
10 – Ladle and portion the sauce evenly among the 4 bowls of noodles. Garnish with the julienned cucumbers.
11 – Serve hot and with a side of pickled onions.
Cook with me! Here’s a how-to video for jjajangmyun.