Beijing signature noodles Zha Jiang Mian 炸酱面 or known as fried sauce noodles are full of umami flavor and freshness. Apart from the famous Peking duck, Zha Jiang Mian is a classic and signature noodle dish that you can find at any restaurant and cafe in Beijing.
Growing up in Beijing, you bet Zha Jiang Mian was a staple dish that my parent and grandparents made often. Especially on birthdays (noodle is a must-eat dish on your birthday) and holidays. Traditional condiments to go with Zha Jiang Mian are vinegar, hot chili sauce, sweet pickled garlic, and green onion.
Living in the U.S., it is quite hard to find authentic Zha Jiang Mian. The only way to guarantee you get the real deal is grab your family recipe and make it yourself. Plus, I like to put my own healthier twist to the Beijing noodles.
What is Zha Jiang Mian 炸酱面?
Zha Jiang Mian, directly translated into fried sauce noodle. Like the direct translation, this is a wheat noodle dish drenched in salty, pungent bean sauce with a sweetness hint. There are three main components to making Zha Jiang Mian or fried sauce noodles: sauce, noodles, and fresh vegetables.
Traditionally, fried sauce noodles Zha Jiang Mian is made with pork strips or cubes or ground pork pan-fried in a sauce and combined with thick and chewy hand-stretched noodles and various fresh vegetables. You can enjoy this fried sauce noodles dish hot or cold.
What You Will Need To Make Authentic Beijing Noodle
Zha Jiang Mian, or fried sauce noodles, is all about the right balance of sauce. It should have a nice balance of sweetness and saltiness with umami flavor. Authentic Beijing noodle Zha Jiang Mian sauce is made with a combination of tian mian Jiang (or known as sweet bean sauce) and dou ban Jiang (or known as fermented yellow soybean sauce).
Sweet bean sauce
Sweet bean sauce or Tian Mian Jiang is a thick, dark brown sauce made from wheat flour, dark soy sauce, sugar, and salt. And this sauce is the same sauce used on Peking duck. It is salty with a hint of sweetness.
Ground bean sauce
Ground bean sauce, known as dou ban jiang, is a savory Chinese sauce made from fermented yellow soybean. The sauce contains a fermented chunky yellow soybean that is quite salty and has an umami flavor. If you cannot find it, you can substitute it with black bean sauce, soybean paste, or even a miso paste.
Authentic Beijing's signature noodles Zha Jiang Mian is made with diced pork belly, ground pork, or minced pork. You can, however, use any type of meat.
Authentic Beijing noodles Zha Jiang Mian is made with hand-pulled thick wheat noodles. It is chewy and thick so that it will pick up the sauce perfectly. You can make fried sauce noodles with store brought dried noodles, but nothing beats fresh homemade noodles.
Traditional Beijing noodle dish serves with thinly sliced cucumber sticks and sliced green onion. The freshness and the crunchy texture of the cucumber balance out the saltiness sauce and chewy noodles perfectly.
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My healthy Twist To Beijing Noodle
Swap Pork With Chicken Breast
For healthier alternatives, swap your pork belly with chicken breast. Either slice whole chicken breast into tiny chunks or use ground chicken breast. With this healthy swap, you can save almost 1/3 of the calories and a significant amount of fat with the leaner protein choice. And if you want to take a step even further, try the vegan option.
For the vegan option, you can use extra firm tofu or shiitake mushrooms instead. They taste as delicious as the meat version! And if you want to go fancy, mix the proteins together. My favorite combo is chicken and mushrooms.
When shopping for Asian sauce for this recipe, you may notice many of them contain a high amount of sodium, sugar, and even artificial coloring and flavoring. When purchasing Asian sauces, make sure you read the label on the back. It should have simple ingredients, and it does not contain any of the bad stuff.
When purchasing sauces, you will find that the Lee Kum kee brand carries all the sauce you need, but I do not recommend using them because they contain artificial coloring, flavoring, and corn syrup.
For sweet bean sauce, here is my favorite that you can get from Amazon. This sweet sauce is made with simple ingredients, and it does not contain any artificial flavor or coloring.
For ground bean sauce, here is my favorite from Amazon.
For vegan and healthier options, you can use this mushroom sauce.
Healthier Cooking Oil
Traditionally, the sauce is cook with sesame oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. Most of these types of oil on the market are heavily processed, which makes them less desirable. When purchasing oil, look for organic and cold expelled oil because it will contain more beneficial nutrients.
I recommend using organic and cold expelled avocado oil. Avocado oil has a high smoking oil, making it great for stir-frying.
Loaded Up With Fresh Vegetables
In today's world, restaurants and cafes are loading up sorts of fresh vegetables for their Beijing noodle. From carrot sticks to micro-greens, you can't have too many vegetables. So, feel free to add your favorite vegetables to your Zha Jiang Mian.
Beijing Noodle Zha Jiang Mian
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Serving Size: 6
*12 shittake mushroom sliced and cubed
4 tablespoon of fermented bean paste
2 tablespoon of shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon of Sweet Bean Sauce
2 Tablespoon avocado oil
2 stalk scallion Thinly Sliced
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon Fresh ginger Grated
5 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoon soy sauce Or Coconut Aminos Soy Sauce
*2 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
large cucumber, sliced into sticks
Fresh or dried noodles of your choice
Optional Extra condiments
- In a bowl, mix dry yellow soybean paste and sweet bean sauce with warm water.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat avocado oil at medium-high heat. Add spring onion, minced garlic, and grated ginger, and let it pan-fried in oil for few minutes to infuse the oil with flavors. Then add thinly sliced chicken breast or ground chicken breast and rice wine to the wok. Pan-fries until chicken is cooked.
- Pour in the diluted bean sauce into the wok. Bring sauce boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until a thicker consistency. At this point, taste the sauce to determine if adding coconut sugar is needed.
- In a separate pot, cook the noodles. Drain and rinse under cold water, so the noodle doesn't get stuck together.
- Place the noodle in serving bowls. When the sauce is cooked to a thicker consistency, pour it in a separate bowl. When eating, scoop about a tablespoon at a time to your noodle and mix. Add more when needed.
Note, your sauce should taste a salty with a hint of sweetness. When paired with noodles and vegetables, it will tone down.
- Then top it with fresh vegetables.
- Additional condiment you can pair with the noodle and your sauce includes sweet pickled garlic, chili and/or black vinegar. The acidity of these condiments balances out the flavor the remaining ingredients offer.
How to store leftovers
To store leftover fried sauce, simply store it in an air-tight container and place it in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use it again, you can eat it as is (cold) or heat it in the microwave.
To store leftover noodles, place them in an air-tight container or zip lock bag. To eat it the next day, you can eat it as it, dip it in hot boiling water for a few minutes, or microwave it.