As a kid, I knew one kind of zha jiang mein, Mom’s, and I loved it. It was my favorite noodle dish growing up. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized her version wasn’t a traditional northern Chinese style but her own version of the dish. Her version was more Beijing style (she was born in Beijing after all), and not sweet like other Chinese regional variations. As a matter of fact, my Mom used yellow miso paste instead of the traditional Chinese yellow soybean paste. I’ve never had the latter so not sure how different the taste is compared to miso.
I learned how to make this using Mom’s method of cooking. That is, a little bit of this, a spoonful of that, a little taste here and there, adjust as you go along. So it was a bit more difficult than I thought to come up with an actual written recipe to share. It’s amazing what we do that’s second nature and never realize it. Just a note on the meat selection. Mom has always used ground pork but I typically use ground beef since it’s what I usually have on hand. But IMHO, it tastes best with ground pork and the Mister agrees. Ground turkey or chicken can also be used. Your choice.
For noodles, I’ve used a variety of noodles (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) but the ones I like best are the white wider noodles. Not thick like udon but flat wide. I think a wider noodle holds up better to a meat sauce. Right now, I have these on hand (from 99 Ranch) and like them quite a bit. They cook up quick and have a nice pull (tooth).
A quick note on timing. I prefer to cook the zha jiang sauce and have it ready and then cook the noodles. This way the noodles won’t sit around and get sticky and gummy while waiting for the sauce. I don’t typically rinse the noodles so that the sauce sticks to the noodles better but if the noodles to get sticky, you can rinse it under warm water to break it apart. I start the water right before I prep all the ingredients. That way the water is all ready once the sauce is done.
Serves 2 people.
1/2 lb wide dry Asian style noodles
6 oz of ground pork
3 Tbsp Japanese yellow miso paste
1/2 cup water
1/2 small sweet onion, diced finely
1 green onion, chopped into 1/4″ pieces, reserve 1 Tbsp of green for garnishing
2 Tbsp Canola oil
1/2 small English cucumber, seeded and julienned
Prior to prepping the ingredients, start boiling water in the amount according to the noodle package instructions.
Mix miso paste and water to make a slurry. Don’t worry if there are a few little lumps of miso paste. They will dissolve when cooked. Set aside.
In a wok or a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in ground pork and cook until done. Set aside.
Add remaining oil to wok. Add miso slurry and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sweet onion and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add green onions and cook for another minute. Set aside.
Cook noodles according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Divide cooked noodles into 2 bowls. Spoon sauce on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with reserved green onions. Add cucumber jullienes on top and serve. (I like a lot of cucumbers on mine!)
These noodles are typically eaten hot but I found that if you let it cool just a bit, these are pretty nice during hot weather too.
I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.