In almost every Korean drama, you will see characters devour this black sauce noodle dish-ending with black sauce all around their mouths. And it’s almost always in an office setting or at home, where these are delivered in a steel or plastic box. Jjajangmyeon (짜장면) is actually a Chinese dish, introduced in 1905 by a Chinese chef in Incheon. Since then, it has fully become part of the Korean culture, invoking all sorts of memories for many Koreans young and old. There’s even a saying among Koreans about how a move to a new home is not complete unless you order Jjajangmyeon at the end of a long moving day. For every Korean neighborhood, there’s always a Chinese restaurant nearby and delivery is a must.
Few days ago, in one of my TV favorite show – “Dad, where are you going?”(아빠 어디가? Appa Uh-diga?)- I watched Jjajangmyeon being delivered to a rice field!!? Even the dads were surprised to see the food when it came. Now, I call that service! In many ways, Jjajangmyeon is equivalent to America’s Pizza.
I have been making home made Jjajangmyeon since 91′ after I got married (over 20 years?!) at the request of my husband. My recipe has evolved quite a bit over the years and I have to say I’m quite happy with this one. When I gave it to my daughter for tasting, she happily chanted “Your Jjajangmyeon tastes better than the restaurant version!”. And the best part is, there is no MSG!
Couple things to note about different kinds of Jjajangmyeons -
- 간짜장면 Kaan Jjajangmyeon – more intense flavor because the sauce is condensed (just black bean paste and vegetables, little water) also more expensive
- 짜장면 Jjajangmyeon – water or broth added to Kaan Jjajang so it’s milder in flavor
- 삼선간짜장면 Samseon Kaan Jjajangmyeon – ‘sam’ means 3 and ‘seon’ means taste. Traditionally, it contains 3 kinds of seafood like squid, sea cucumber and shrimp in addition to pork and veggies.
- 사천짜장면 Sahcheon Jjajangmyeon – Sahcheon (사천) means Szechuan. as with many things Szechuan, it had added spiciness
The version I’m making here is Kaan Jjajang. You can easily make regular Jjajangmyeon by adding more water or broth.
Servings: 3 Cooking Time: 35 min Difficulty: Medium
Ingredients for Kaan Jjajangmyeon
- 1/2 C Chinese black bean paste (춘장 choonjang)
- 1/2 C or 3 fresh, dried or fresh shitake mushrooms, chopped (optional)
- 3 oz (80g) pork loin, cut into cubes
- 1 medium size onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 C cabbage, chopped
- 1/2 C zucchini, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped (optional)
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cucumber, julienned (as garnish)
- 1 T sugar
- 1 C water
- 1/2 C + 3 T vegetable oil
- 1 pack of fresh noodles for jjajangmyeon or kal gooksoo
In Korea, this Jinmi Choonjang (진미 춘장) is the standard black bean paste to use for Jjajangmyeon. They used to have MSG in it but not any more so that’s a good thing. :)
- Prepare ingredients below:
*See the lovely yellow carrot?! The pretty carrot is from my farm – we grew some colored carrots this summer and I decided to add the carrot for additional flavor. Carrot is totally optional but is a great way to hide additional nutrition for kids. I loved these carrots so much, I decided to take a picture -
2. Chop all vegetables into small cubes.
3. In a non-stick frying pan, add equal amount of choonjang and oil to pan on medium/medium low heat. Should be bubbling but not burning. Stirring often, cook for 7 min.
Lot of oil will be leftover after stir frying the paste.
4. WHILE the choonjang is cooking, in ANOTHER pan, add 2 T oil to pan on medium heat. Sauté just onions and cabbages for 10 min or more until onions become translucent. This will make your sauce taste sweeter!
5. Remove choonjang from pan. It should be easy to bunch up the cooked choonjang and remove from oil. Like so-
6. Discard the leftover oil in pan.
7. Remove onions and cabbages from pan and set aside. Sauté pork on med-high heat for 2-3 min in the same pan.
8. Once pork is cooked, return onions, cabbages to pan. Add 1 T oil and remaining vegetables. Sauté all ingredients on med-high heat for 5 – 7 min. Veggies should still be slightly crunchy.
9. Add the cooked choonjang paste to pan (step 8) and stir everything, making sure the paste coats the ingredients evenly.
10. Stir fry for 2 min. Add 1 C water and 1 T sugar. Cook until the sauce is reduced to half. Reduce further for more condensed flavor.
11. Fresh noodles (국수 Kooksoo) are best for Jjajangmyeon. If you can buy one’s that says “짜장면 국수”, it should work fine. Believe it or not, I could not find it at my local market. Probably because not many Koreans make Jjajangmyeon at home in Korea. I bought 칼국수 (Kalgooksoo) and that worked fine. Just cook the noodles in boiling water for 7-10 min (based on package directions) and rinse in cold water.
12. Sauce is now ready!
Just add noodles or rice to a bowl and top with this amazingly yummy Kaanjjajang sauce!
- How to make Jjajangmyeon/jajang myeon? – In step 8, instead of reducing the sauce, just add 1 T corn starch mixed with 1/4 C water to the sauce and stir. The jjajang sauce should thicken up and there you go!
- Choonjang(춘장) and Jjajang(짜장) are used interchangeably when referring to the black bean paste. Sometimes you may find 볶음짜장(bokkeum jjajang) which means it’s already been fried in oil which means you can skip step 3.
- Meat substitutions – use beef or chicken instead of pork and it will still taste great!
- For richer sauce, use chicken broth instead of water. Watch out for saltiness though since chicken broth already has quite a bit of sodium. Use low sodium chicken broth or maybe half broth and half water.