A Taste of Authentic Beijing Noodles
Mentioning Zha Jiang Mian, Beijing’s signature noodle, instantly brings to mind the rich culinary landscape of China’s capital. This noodle dish is ubiquitous, gracing both bustling street stalls and the posh interiors of five-star dining establishments. It’s a beacon for every food enthusiast. While you might find it priced as modestly as 10RMB or as luxuriously as 100RMB, the cost doesn’t always dictate its taste. At its heart, Zha Jiang Mian captivates with its perfect blend of chewy noodles and a savory, meat-infused sauce.
An Authentic Recipe Journey
A reader, eager to recreate this celebrated dish at home, approached us for the recipe. To ensure authenticity, I reached out to a Beijing-native friend who entrusted his family’s cherished Zha Jiang Mian recipe, handwritten by the best cook in their clan – his sister. The recipe, though rich in ingredients, lacked precise measurements. It felt reminiscent of asking for directions in Beijing: often brief and to the point. The common direction, “It’s ahead,” echoed the essence of the recipe she shared – simple yet requiring a touch of intuition.
Despite the initial challenges of this slightly enigmatic recipe, a couple of attempts led to perfection. And trust me, with the right guidance, you’ll find it’s a breeze!
Essential Components of Zha Jiang Mian
Opt for thick, flour-based noodles. While we went with a delightful wide, flat variety, any type that’s available will suffice.
Tian Mian Jiang
Seek out the sweet bean sauce at your nearest Asian grocery. This dense, dark brown condiment, primarily made from fermented wheat flour, is distinct in its taste. Although some might substitute it with Hoisin sauce, the original brings a richer flavor. For authenticity, search for the label 甜面酱.
Ground Bean Sauce
A salty counterpart to Tian Mian Jiang, this sauce is also derived from fermented yellow soybeans. Scout for a jar that closely matches this description.
- Ground pork: 6 oz. (170g)
- Salt: ¼ teaspoon
- Cornstarch: 1 teaspoon
- Oil: ½ teaspoon (plus 1 tablespoon)
- White pepper: 1/8 teaspoon
- Pork fat (finely minced; optional): 1 oz.
- Ginger (finely minced): 3 slices
- Garlic (minced): 4 cloves
- Fresh shiitake mushrooms (finely chopped): 6
- Sweet bean sauce: 2 tablespoons
- Ground bean sauce: 3 tablespoons
- Dark soy sauce: 1 tablespoon
- Water: 1 cup
- Dried wheat noodles: 8 oz. (or fresh wheat noodles: 1 pound)
- Carrots (julienned): 1 cup
- Cucumbers (julienned): 1 cup
- Scallions (julienned): 1/2 cup
- Prepare the pork by marinating it in salt, cornstarch, oil, and white pepper for 15 minutes.
- Warm a tablespoon of oil in your wok over medium heat. Introduce the pork fat, if you’re using it, and let it cook for a minute. Then, add the marinated pork, allowing it to brown slightly before incorporating ginger, garlic, and mushrooms. Continue stir-frying for another 2-3 minutes.
- Mix in the sweet bean sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce, and water, ensuring they blend well. Reduce the flame and let the concoction simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Parallelly, prepare the noodles as directed on their packaging. Once done, combine them with the sauce, and garnish with julienned carrots, cucumbers, and scallions. This recipe should serve four.