Zhajiang Mian 炸酱面

I love this dish! This is home-style cooking - down-to-earth, full of love and easily adaptable to your family's preferences. Traditionally, it's made with ground pork, but I use ground turkey. You can add all sorts of things such as julienned cucumbers or carrots, bean sprouts, edamame, diced or julienned firm tofu, hot sauce, really whatever strikes your fancy. Some people call Zhajiangmian (literally "fried sauce noodles"), the Chinese version of bolognese. Or is bolognese the Italian version of Zhajiangmian? In any case, it's fast, easy and delicious!

The only difficult part may be sorting out the types of soybean sauces you'll need. There's no hard and fast rule. Each family doctors up their own version of Zhajiangmian. Some recipes use just yellow bean sauce, huang jiang 黄酱. Other recipes use sweet flour sauce, tian mian jiang 甜麵酱 or ground bean sauce,  磨原豉 or even a mixture of them. You can find them all at Asian markets (and even online), but for the purposes of keeping things simple, I'm just going to go over the two sauces I use in my version of Zhajiangmian. Given there can be quite a few different brands and names, here‘s a primer on what to look for.

The first is sweet flour sauce which also goes by sweet bean sauce, sweet bean paste, sweet soybean paste or sweet noodle sauce. If it gets confusing at the market, try looking for the Chinese characters 甜麵酱.Here's one brand:

The second sauce is bean sauce. You can buy either the ground bean sauce which is completely smooth or the "regular" bean sauce which has bits of bean (not completely ground smooth). Either is fine; it's just a personal taste thing. My kids prefer the completely smooth ground bean sauce, so that's what I use. Here's a pic of the two:

And while you're at the Asian market, pick up a bottle of shaoxing wine:

Okay, ready to cook?

Zhajiang Mian  炸酱面
serves 4-6

Note: Given this is a stir-fry, have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start the actual cooking process.

In a large wok, heat over high:
1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

When hot, stir fry until meat has just a bit of pink left:
1 lb ground pork or turkey

Add and continue stir frying until just after meat is no longer pink:
3 stalks scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar

Turn down heat, add and cook for 3-4 minutes:
1/3 cup sweet flour sauce 甜麵醬
1/4 cup ground bean sauce or "regular" bean sauce
1/2 cup water (add more or less depending on how thick you like your sauce)

Serve on top of individual serving bowls of cooked spaghetti noodles or Chinese wheat noodles. Each diner can add their choice of garnishes - julienned cucumbers, bell peppers; shredded carrots; bean sprouts, etc.


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