Beijing-Style Noodles (Zhajiang Mian)

Beijing-Style noodlesI really enjoyed reading Jen Lin-Liu’s “Serve the People, a stir-fried journey through China.”

Of the recipes in the book, I’ve so far made the Beijing-style noodle dish you see at left, which the author made for her cooking school friend, Chairman Wang, when the woman injured her foot and was housebound.  It is noodles, with sautéed cubes of pork belly and an intense brown sauce.

The recipe, below, calls for “yellow soybean paste” (preferably Liubiju brand), and when I asked for it (although not by brand) at the Chinese supermarket, I was shown to the miso.  I brought some miso home, but fortunately questioned my choice before I dumped a cup and a half of the stuff in my dish, which I feared would render it inedibly salty.  I ran to the computer, and googled, and learned that there is, in fact, something else called yellow bean paste, and it comes in pouches. 

So at the last minute, I substituted a thrown together combination of hoisin and other sauces, and the results were very good, if not what was intended.  Now I’ve been back to the Chinese market, and this time I found a pouch of something called Beijing Noodle sauce (also extremely salt-laden), plus a jar of Sweet Bean Sauce. I wonder if either of these is closer to the original intention?  Maybe the latter, since my online research seems to say the intended bean sauce does include sugar.  If you think you know, I’m eager to learn.  The recipe follows

Beijing-Style Noodles (Zhajiang Mian) From “Serve the People,” Jen Lin-Liu

1/2 pound pork belly, cut into 1/21-inch cubes

2 teaspoons minced leek or scallion

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups yellow soybean paste (preferably Liubiju brand)

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

Fresh or dried Chinese wheat noodles

1/2 cucumber, shredded

1/4 cup minced parsley (I used cilantro, FB)

In a wok, stir-fry the pork belly over high heat.  (The fatty pork should not need any added oil.)  When the meat begins to render its fat, add the leek, ginger, and garlic.  Continue cooking until the meat is browned, then remove the wok from the heat and transfer the contents to a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the soybean paste iwht the water, stirring until the paste dissolves.

Place a clean wok over medium heat and add the soybean paste mixture.  Cook until the mixture thickens and turns sticky, scraping the bottom of the wok with a spatula to keep it from scorching.  Stir in the pork.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir until the mixture is glistening and caramelized, about 10 minutes.  The sauce can be prepared in advance up to this point.  It can be served either hot or cold and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Boil the noodles until tender.  Drain, top with the sauce, and garnish with the cucumber and parsley.

Empty Bowl

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4 thoughts on “Beijing-Style Noodles (Zhajiang Mian)

  1. I’m definitely not an expert in this arena, but checking my copy of Bruce Cost’s Asian Ingredients indicates that yellow bean sauce is the same as standard bean sauce: “Bean sauce most frequently seasons meat dishes in North China, the most famous being the Peking noodle dish za jiang mein, which can lay claim to the title of the world’s oldest surviving meat and spaghetti dish.” He recommends bean sauces from either Koon Chun Sauce Factory or Sze Chuan Food Products Co. (both available in my local Asian market) while lamenting, “Whereas in China food stores might offer wonderful local bean sauces by the scoop, we’re stuck with canned varieties…” I can’t say I’ve ever seen Liubiju brand sauces locally. In any case, miso is not what you want for a recipe like this.

    I’ll have to look for that book; that recipe sounds very tasty.

  2. Winslow, thank you SO much for this clarification. Are the products you mention in a jar or are they really canned? I am taking this information to the Asian market asap. I loved this dish!

  3. No problem! 🙂 Koon Chun sells sauces in 15 oz. glass jars (11 oz. fluid weight) with yellow labels and Sze Chuan sells sauces in metal cans; the ones I have on hand are 6 oz. cans but I’m pretty sure they make bigger sizes as well (various colors for different types of sauce; the ones I have handy are a couple of varieties of hot bean sauce). Just in general, I’ve found Asian Ingredients to be an excellent reference and shopping advisor (plus it has recipes). Good luck!

  4. Just ordered the book! I have something like it, but it doesn’t really deal with all those aisles of mysterious cans and jars.

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