Savory, saucy, pork and vegetable-loaded udon-style noodles topped with crisp, fresh cucumber. This is a Korean staple.
THE RAMBLE: WINNER FOR TEAM KOREA!
LET’S TALK ABOUT not the music Paste Magazine today, but Korean pastes, the –jangs; Gochujang, Doenjang, Chunjang, etc. These are the greatest ingredients in the world. Why? Because of what it is and the flavor it gives. They’re fermented pastes with bases of gochu (pepper), soy beans, black soy beans, etc. and have the most incredible, umami-packed flavor in a single spoonful. Korean pastes simply are the best because of what is in them and how they’re fermented. All you need is a big pot of water and then just a couple spoonfuls of this paste to make the greatest soup of your life, or in our case, sauce of your life. This dish has Chinese roots that the Koreans have made their own signature dish. You can add your favorite vegetables to this from onion to zucchini to carrot to potato to radish, so it is very versatile and great for using bits of random veggies. Good marble-y pork or pork belly are traditional, as is the crisp cucumber atop to balance all the umami. Don’t misunderstand, these are not black beans as are common to us in the US. These are not the canned or dried black beans we find in the grocery store, neither is it the same as Chinese black beans/black bean sauce, so don’t try to substitute with anything crazy! Just go to the Asian market and buy the real Korean stuff.
I tried 3 different versions of this recipe and decided that my favorite, by a close margin, was Judy Joo’s from her book Korean Food Made Simple, my favorite Korean recipe source (read about my crush on her in my post Winner Winner Korean Pork Belly Bo Ssam Alternative Holiday Dinner). Hers was the simplest and had the best balance of flavors; the sweet, savory, and body. The runners-up are My Korean Kitchen‘s and Korean Bapsang‘s, so give them a try too! For a few banchan recipes, read my Spain vs Korea Recipes Face-Off: Small Plates: Spain Tapas vs Korea Banchan! (Part II).
Get yourself an Asian mandolin with inserts! It makes julienning so much easier, and you can choose 3 sizes with this Beriner Old Version Green Mandolin. This is the perfect tool for the cucumbers on this dish, and makes banchan easier too, like my Spain vs Korea Recipes Face-Off: Small Plates: Spain Tapas vs Korea Banchan! (Part II).
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Korean food: Hyosun of Korean Bapsang, Sue from My Korean Kitchen, Maangchi @Maangchi of Maangchi, Julie of KimchiChick, Judy Joo @JudyJooChef of Cooking Channel’s and cookbook Korean Food Make Simple and Jinjuu in London and Hong Kong, food truck pioneer Roy Choi @RidingShotgunLA of Kogi and cookbook L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food and LA restaurants Chego, Alibi Room, Sunny Spot and A-Frame, Holly @beyondkimchi of Beyond Kimchee, David Chang @DavidChang of PBS’s Mind of a Chef, his NYC restaurant and books Momofuku, and recipe/culture online magazine Lucky Peach @luckypeach, Robin Ha @RobinHaART of her recipe blog/Tumblr Banchan Comic and recipe-comic book Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes, HJ @haejn of the blog Yobodish Korean Recipes, James Strange and his YouTube recipe videos, Jinjoo of her blog, Kimchimari, Deuki Hong @deukihong and Matt Rodbard’s @mattrodbard Koreatown: A Cookbook.
Jjajangmyun (Korean Black Bean Sauce Noodles)
Adapted from Korean Food Made Simple, serves 4-6, medium-level fuss, about 30-40 minutes to make.
3 TBS neutral oil
10 oz marbled pork or skinless pork belly, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 large white onion, diced medium
3 plump cloves garlic, pressed/grated/minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
4 small potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 small zucchini, cut pole to pole, then cut on the bias 1/4″ thick
1/2 cup Korean radish or daikon cut into 1/2″ dice (can sub carrot too)
2 TBS potato starch mixed in 1/4 cup water
2/3 cup black bean paste (chunjang)*
3 cups water
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2+ tsp kosher salt (to taste)
black pepper to taste
about 16-18 oz (2-3 bundles) Korean Fresh Noodle/Udon
1 large seedless or 2-3 Korean cucumber, julienned
sesame oil (optional)
white roasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (preferable with high sides). Add pork and cook until caramelized and golden brown all over, about 6-7 minutes. Add onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, zucchini, and radish, and cook another 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once potatoes are starting to turn translucent, make a well in the center of the skillet and add black bean paste, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper. Give it a stir, then add water and mix well. Lower heat and let simmer 3-4 minutes. Stir potato starch mixture and add to skillet and mix well. It will immediately start to thicken. Simmer another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are soft, stirring often. Once done, check for seasoning.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles al dente according to package instructions (usually about 5 minutes). Drain, rinse under cool water, and drain water thoroughly. Portion noodles for 4-6 bowls, spoon black bean sauce over the top (a little goes a long way!), then garnish with cucumber and anything else you desire, serve with your favorite banchan.
*When running low on black bean paste, 1/4 cup paste with 1 tsp Korean red powdered dasida was also delicious.