While Koreans love noodles, the cuisine is slightly less noodle-focused than East Asia neighbors China and Japan. But jajangmyeon is here to save the freaking day (blow your freaking mind). It’s mild, slightly sweet and unites pork fat with a Korean black bean paste called chunjang, which you can find at all Asian grocery stores. While similar to the ubiquitous Chinese black bean sauce, this is nuttier and less salty.
Like the greasy takeout lo mein everyone loves, these noodles should be slightly oily, and splatter a little when slurped. We like to use red onions in this onion-centric dish. And if you can’t find fresh noodles,you can substitute with a couple bags of instant ramen (less the spice packet of course) or even spaghetti.
And fun fact. Well, slightly grim fun fact. Jajangmyeon is typically eaten on what Koreans call Black Day, which is observed every April 14. The idea is that those who didn’t receive a gift the previous two 14ths of the months — Valentine’s Day (February 14) and White Day (March 14, when girls return the favor to the boys) — they should treat themselves to a bowl of black noodles and commiserate on their life of perpetual singledom.
Serves: 4-6 people Prep time: 15 minutes Total time: 40 minutes
1 pound|450 grams fresh jajangmyeon/udon noodles (can substitute with a couple packages of instant ramen noodles) 6 ounces|170 grams fatty pork belly, large diced 3 ounces|85 grams pork shoulder, large diced 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced 2 garlic cloves, minced ½ medium carrot, peeled and diced 1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and small diced 2 medium red onions, diced ½ zucchini, peeled and diced, plus ¼ cup|1 ounce|30 grams julienned zucchini ½ cup|143 grams chunjang (black bean paste) 2 tablespoons granulated sugar kosher salt, to taste ¼ pickled yellow daikon, cut into half-moons (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add noodles. Boil the noodles for 8 minutes until soft (just beyond al dente), reserve 1 ½ cups|375 ml of the noodle cooking water, drain and rinse with cold water just to cool to room temperature. Drain well and reserve. While the noodles are boiling, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on high heat in a wok or large skillet until lightly smoking. Add diced pork belly and shoulder and render for 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 1 minute, being mindful not to burn. Add carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini and saute for 6 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Mix in the black bean paste, sugar, 1 cup|250 ml of noodle water, and salt to taste. Cook for 7 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the potatoes are fully cooked. If you need to add more noodle water, do so. Divide noodles into two bowls and top with warm sauce. Garnish with julienned zucchini and pickled yellow daikon. As an alternative, the sauce can be served over cooked rice for a dish called jjajangbap.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This recipe has been reprinted with permission of the author from Koreatown: A Cookbook.
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