Ask any older Korean what their favorite childhood birthday meal was and you might be surprised to hear that it was jajangmyeon, a dish of fresh noodles topped with a savory black bean sauce.
Jajangmyeon is Korean, but it comes from a subcategory of Junghwa Yori (Korean-Chinese) dishes that have become so beloved by entire generations that they might as well be wholly Korean in identity.
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These days, most Koreans in Korea don’t make jajangmyeon at home very often because it’s readily available for takeout and delivery. In the United States, where it’s still growing in popularity, it’s worth learning how to prepare this umami-rich noodle dish yourself.
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Jajangmyeon isn’t difficult to make, but it does require one key ingredient—chunjang—a Korean-style black bean paste that differs from Chinese black bean paste in taste and appearance; it really can’t be substituted or made at home. Once you have a jar of chunjang in your pantry, the dish comes together relatively quickly.
When you fry the chunjang in oil along with some seasoning, meats, and vegetables, it becomes jajang sauce. Jajang sauce is traditionally made with a bit of pork (although some cooks prefer beef, chicken, or tofu) and often includes some seafood, such as shrimp.
How to Make This Version of Jajangmyeon
- Start by simmering chunks of potato in a saucepan until they’re al dente.
- Next, cook ground pork in a wok or Dutch oven until it’s no longer pink; add some soy sauce and ginger.
- Stir in canola oil and a generous amount of sliced scallions, and then add the chunjang along with chopped onion, sugar, and oyster sauce.
- Stir in chopped raw cabbage (zucchini and carrots are also common), the precooked potato pieces, and more onion, and cook for a few minutes until the cabbage is soft.
- Add small pieces of raw shrimp, and then thicken the sauce by pouring in a cornstarch slurry and cooking until it’s glossy.
- Meanwhile, cook the noodles and portion them into serving bowls.
- Serve the warm noodles with a generous amount of sauce spooned over and garnish with cucumber and pickled daikon radish.
Jajangmyeon (Black Bean Noodles)Popular in Korean cuisine, this quick-cooking, intensely flavorful dish of noodles crowned with a supersavory sauce deserves a wider audience.
When you order jajangmyeon at a restaurant, you’ll often be left with an ample amount of sauce at the bottom of your bowl after you’ve finished your noodles. The sauce is typically packed up to take home to enjoy the next day with a scoop of rice as jajangbap (black bean rice).
Judiaann Woo is a Korean-born, American-made food and marketing professional currently living in Portland, Oregon. Find out what she’s been eating or cooking by following her latest adventures on Instagram at @judiaann.