Guest Recipe, Phil Riris: Zha Jiang Mian (Fried sauce noodles)
This is a popular noodle dish from northern China, which I have grown to love for its bold, simple flavours and ease of preparation. At its core, it is somewhat analogous to Spaghetti Bolognese, in that it is mince (in this case Pork) with a fragrant base of vegetables, a saucy element and it is served over noodles. Obviously, being an eastern Asian dish, it has a completely different flavour profile and so is a great alternative for those who are bored to hell and back with the old Italian standby. Zha jiang mian is also a sort of cultural export dish, with variations such as Korean jajangmyeon and Japanese jajamen. They’re slightly different, but the principles are the same.
Just as French cuisine has mirepoix, the Spanish cherish their sofrito and Cajuns swear by the trinity of celery, bell pepper and onion, so too the Chinese have an aromatic trio: yuxiang. This is a finely diced blend of Ginger, Garlic and Spring onion. Without further ado, take:
- 500 grams Minced Pork
- Six cloves of Garlic, smashed and minced
- 1 bunch Spring Onion, diced finely
- Knob of Ginger root (approx. the length of your thumb), grated
Fry together in a little oil until the Pork is browned and the vegetables smell wonderful.
- 4 T Hoisin Sauce
- 2 T Dark Soy Sauce
- 1 T Sugar
- Salt to taste (probably won’t need it)
- Chile to taste (I don’t tend to use any)
- White or black Pepper, to taste
- Enough water to thin it out, about a cup
Boil everything together for at least 15 minutes, stirring and scraping as it reduces. When it is thick to your liking and all the flavours have melded, adjust the seasoning and serve over freshly cooked wheat noodles with a heaped topping of sliced cucumber on top. In the version I made for this post, I served it with ribbons of carrot I quick-pickled in cider vinegar, salt and sugar. The acidity is nice in such a rich dish, but I accept that a bit of greenery would be nice, if for nothing else than a bit of colour variation.
That’s it! Mix up the whole mess and enjoy!
Some good variations on this simple recipe are:
- Scramble silken tofu with
- Adding diced mushrooms (I basically always do this)
- Using other meats (beef for heavier sauce, poultry for lighter)
- Topping with different vegetables (beansprouts, fresh carrot, matchsticks of radish)
Credit goes to the Goons with Spoons at SomethingAwful.com for introducing me to this dish.