Imagine a plate of freshly cooked noodles, perfectly coated in a savory, umami-rich sauce that tantalize your taste buds with every bite. Meet Zha Jiang Mian 炸酱面, a traditional Chinese dish that combines the best of both simplicity and complexity in a single bowl. Bursting with a harmonious blend of flavors and textures, this beloved culinary gem has captured the hearts of food enthusiasts around the globe.
Originating from the bustling streets of Beijing, China, Zha Jiang Mian is a flavorful dish with a rich history. It is a noodle dish that is served with fried bean sauce. With a history dating back centuries, it has evolved into a true culinary masterpiece, celebrated for its versatility and ability to transport diners to a world of tantalizing aromas and robust flavors.
Being a Beijinger, making Zha Jiang Mian is a must. In this post, I will share a step-by-step guide to making healthy Beijing fried sauce noodles and explore the secrets behind crafting an unforgettable bowl of Zha Jiang Mian. From selecting the finest ingredients to mastering the art of the sauce, we'll provide you with the knowledge and techniques needed to create an authentic and unforgettable culinary experience right in your own kitchen.
Zha Jiang Mian Beijing Noodle Recipe
1. Cook the noodles: Boil a pot of water and follow the package instructions to cook the noodles. Once done, drain them and set them aside.
2. Prepare the sauce: Combine the fermented soybean paste, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and oyster sauce in a small bowl. Set the mixture aside.
3. Cook the chicken: Using a large skillet or wok, heat the avocado oil over medium heat. Add the cubed chicken breast and stir-fry until it turns fully cooked and is no longer pink. Take out the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
4. Add aromatics and sauce: In the same pan, sauté the minced garlic and ginger for approximately 1 minute until they release their fragrant aroma. Then, incorporate the cooked chicken into the pan and stir-fry it together with the sauce mixture. Cook the meat sauce for another minute, ensuring the chicken is coated evenly.
5. Simmer the meat sauce: Add the chicken or vegetable broth to the mixture and bring it to a simmer. Lower the heat to a gentle setting and allow the sauce to cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, enabling the flavors to blend and the sauce to achieve a slight thickening consistency.
6. Assemble the dish: Place a portion of cooked noodles in a bowl. Spoon the sauce and chicken mixture over the noodles, and garnish with diced cucumber, sliced scallions, and any additional toppings you desire.
7. Serve: Mix the noodles, sauce, and chicken together before eating. Enjoy the Zha Jiang Mian while it's hot!
Tips & Notes
Choose the right noodles: Zha Jiang Mian is traditionally made with thick wheat noodles. Look for fresh or dried noodles specifically labeled for stir-frying or "lo mein" noodles. The texture of the noodles greatly affects the overall dish, so choose noodles that have a chewy and springy texture.
Swap The Meat: Traditional Zha Jiang Mian is made with pork but feel free to choose the meat of your choice! The chicken breast was used for this recipe as it is a lean protein choice, but you can use pork or firm tofu instead.
Don't skimp on the aromatics: Garlic and ginger add wonderful fragrance and flavor to the dish. Ensure that you finely mince them and sauté until they become fragrant before introducing the meat and sauce. This crucial step allows their flavors to be released and permeates the dish.
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10.1g
Saturated Fat 1.4g
Total Carbohydrate 34.3g
Dietary Fiber 2.9g
Total Sugars 7.6g
Vitamin D 0mcg
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Customize with your favorite toppings: Zha Jiang Mian is versatile, and you can add your favorite toppings to enhance the dish. Popular options include diced cucumber, sliced scallions (green onions), julienned carrots, bean sprouts, or shredded cabbage. These crunchy vegetables toppings add freshness, texture, and crunch to the dish.
Mix well before eating: Before digging into your Zha Jiang Mian bowl, mix it well to ensure the noodles are coated evenly with the sauce and toppings. This way, you'll get a harmonious blend of flavors in every bite.
What Is Zha Jiang Mian 炸酱面?
Zha Jiang Mian is fried sauce noodles 炸酱面 that originated in Beijing. This famous noodle dish is comforting and savory, consisting of thick wheat noodles topped with a flavorful meat-based sauce.
The dish "Zha Jiang Mian" directly translates to "fried sauce noodles" in English. However, despite the name, the sauce is not actually fried but rather stir-fried. The sweet bean sauce is made by cooking minced or diced pork or beef (or sometimes cubed chicken) with aromatics like garlic and ginger, then combining it with fermented soybean paste (Tianmianjiang or broad bean paste), hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and other seasonings. The resulting Zha Jiang Mian sauce is savory, slightly sweet, and packed with umami flavors.
To serve Zha Jiang Mian, the cooked noodles are topped with minced pork sauce and garnished with diced cucumber, sliced scallions (green onions), and optional toppings like carrots, bean sprouts, or shredded cabbage. The dish is typically mixed thoroughly before eating to ensure that the sauce coats the noodles evenly, resulting in a delicious combination of flavors and textures.
What You Will Need To Make Beijing Noodle
Thick wheat noodles are the base of Beijing Zha Jiang Mian. They provide a chewy texture and absorb the flavors of the sauce. If wheat noodles are unavailable, you can use other noodles, like udon noodles or spaghetti, as a substitute. Recommend thick noodles as they can balance out the sauce taste.
The meat adds protein and flavor to the dish. Ground pork or beef is traditionally used, but you can also use cubed chicken breast for a leaner option. The meat is seasoned and cooked before being mixed with the sauce. If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can omit the meat or use meat alternatives like textured vegetable protein (TVP) or crumbled tofu.
Avocado oil is known for its high smoke point, typically ranging from 400-520°F (204-271°C). This makes it suitable for stir-frying and sautéing the meat, garlic, and ginger without the oil reaching its smoking point. You can cook the ingredients at higher temperatures, achieving a nice sear on the meat and developing flavor without the oil breaking down.
In case avocado oil is not accessible, you have the option to substitute it with other types of oil.
Garlic and Ginger
These aromatics add depth and fragrance to the dish. Garlic contributes a savory and pungent taste, while ginger imparts a warm and subtly spicy essence to the dish. If fresh garlic or ginger is not available, you can use dried versions or substitute with garlic and ginger paste or powders. However, fresh is preferred for the best flavor.
Sweet Bean Sauce (Tian mian jiang 甜 面 酱 or Broad Bean Paste)
Sweet bean paste is a key ingredient that gives the dish its distinct umami flavor. Offering a combination of salty and mildly sweet flavors, sweet bean sauce is a thick, dark brown sauce derived from fermented wheat flour. Tianmianjiang, or broad bean paste, can be found in Chinese grocery stores.
If unavailable, a good substitute is yellow soybean paste. Featuring a rich and savory taste accompanied by a subtle sweetness, yellow soybean paste adds a complex umami flavor to the sauce. Its presence brings depth and complexity to the overall taste profile. Although not identical to fermented soybean paste, yellow soybean paste can still provide a delicious flavor component to the Zha Jiang Mian.
If both sweet bean paste and yellow bean paste are available, you can use both in the recipe. While sweet bean paste contributes a subtle taste, yellow bean paste introduces a rich and savory flavor accompanied by a gentle sweetness.
Hoisin sauce is a thick and dark condiment made from a blend of soybeans, garlic, vinegar, and spices. It adds a savory, sweet, and tangy flavor to the sauce. If hoisin sauce is not on hand, you can create a similar taste by combining soy sauce, honey or brown sugar, a splash of rice vinegar, and a pinch of Chinese five-spice powder.
Soy sauce enhances the sauce with its saltiness and depth of flavor. Dark soy sauce, commonly called regular soy sauce, imparts a richer and more intense taste than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce has a dark color and is slightly thicker in consistency. Regular soy sauce adds depth and color to the sauce, enhancing the savory profile of the dish. It can be used in moderation to give the Zha Jiang Mian a deeper and more robust flavor.
If soy sauce is not available or if you are looking for an alternative, tamari or coconut aminos can be used as gluten-free alternatives.
Crafted from oyster extracts, soy sauce, and various seasonings, oyster sauce is a thick and savory condiment that imparts a luscious umami flavor to the dish.
For individuals with shellfish allergies or those seeking a vegetarian alternative, vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom sauce can be substituted in place of oyster sauce.
Chicken or Vegetable Broth
The broth provides a liquid base and helps create a flavorful sauce. Chicken broth is traditionally used, but vegetable broth works well, too, especially if you prefer a vegetarian version.
Cucumber, Scallions, and Optional Toppings
Diced cucumber adds a refreshing crunch to the dish, while thinly sliced scallions provide a mild onion flavor. Other optional toppings can include shredded carrots, bean sprouts, or shredded cabbage. Incorporating these toppings introduces a delightful contrast of textures and a burst of freshness to the dish. You are encouraged to personalize it by adding your preferred crunchy vegetables or other toppings according to your taste.
How To Elevate This Recipe
Consider making your own fresh wheat noodles instead of using store-bought ones. Homemade noodles have a superior texture and flavor. You can find a multitude of online recipes detailing the process of making hand-pulled or hand-cut wheat noodles.
Instead of simply cooking the ground pork, beef, or chicken breast, marinate the meat beforehand to infuse it with extra flavor. You can marinate the meat with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and a touch of sesame oil for a more robust taste.
Custom Sauce Blend
Experiment with your own sauce blend by combining fermented soybean paste (Tianmianjiang or broad bean paste), hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and other condiments like rice vinegar, sesame oil, or chili paste. Modify the ratios according to your personal taste preferences, ensuring a harmonious balance between the sweet, savory, and tangy flavors.
Add Umami Boosters
Enhance the umami flavors in the dish by adding ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated and finely chopped), a splash of vinegar, or a dash of mushroom powder. These additions will deepen the savory profile of the sauce.
Elevate the dish with additional toppings. Consider including ingredients like blanched and shredded Chinese cabbage, quick-pickled radishes or cucumbers, julienned carrots, bean sprouts, or even crispy fried shallots. These toppings add texture, freshness, and complexity to the dish.
Add a pop of freshness by garnishing the Zha Jiang Mian with freshly chopped herbs like cilantro, Thai basil, or mint. Incorporating these herbs can enhance the flavors and infuse the dish with a vibrant touch.
If you enjoy spicy food, consider adding some heat to the dish. You can incorporate minced chili peppers, chili sauce, or chili flakes to give the Zha Jiang Mian a spicy kick. Tailor the spiciness level to your liking by making adjustments according to your personal preference.
How To Store Leftovers
Before storing it, allow the dish to cool down to room temperature. If possible, separate the noodles and the sauce before storing them. This prevents the noodles from becoming soggy as they absorb the sauce over time. Place the noodles and sauce in separate airtight containers. Refrigerate them promptly to keep them fresh. The noodles can be stored for 2-3 days, while the sauce can be stored for 3-4 days.
When reheating, it's best to heat the noodles and sauce separately. To reheat the noodles, briefly dip them in hot water or steam them. Heat the sauce either in a saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave until it is thoroughly warmed. Once reheated, combine the noodles and sauce, mixing them together well. If the sauce has thickened in the refrigerator, you may need to incorporate a small amount of additional moisture to achieve the desired consistency. You can use a small amount of broth or water to loosen the sauce and ensure it coats the noodles evenly.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does Zha Jiang Mian taste like?
Zha Jiang Mian has a savory, umami-rich flavor with a slight sweetness. The sauce offers a savory and robust flavor profile, complemented by the chewy texture of the noodles. The dish is commonly adorned with fresh vegetables, introducing a refreshing and crunchy component.
Can I make Zha Jiang Mian vegetarian or vegan?
Yes, you can make a vegetarian or vegan version of Zha Jiang Mian. You can easily exclude the meat or opt for meat alternatives like tofu or mushrooms. For the sauce, substitute vegetarian versions of fermented soybean paste, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce.
How do I make the sauce thicker or thinner?
If you desire a thicker sauce, you can simmer it for an extended period to reduce the liquid content. Alternatively, you can incorporate a cornstarch slurry (a combination of cornstarch and water) to achieve the desired thickness. On the other hand, if you prefer a thinner sauce, simply add a small amount of additional broth or water to the mixture.