Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lunch Week 22: Jjajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch the next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it every week unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Jjajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)

When I first heard of this dish, it immediately reminded me of Chinese black bean and garlic sauce. The same pungent, salty gravy that oozes rich flavor. With some reading, this dish is actually a cross between Korean and Chinese food cultures. Ah so my instincts were right! Unless I'm reading incorrect information. Haha!

This dish is a combination of chopped vegetables and meat (this version has pork) cooked together and simmered in a black bean sauce. I started off by chopping all my vegetables and meat into bite sized cubes. One of these vegetables is a Korean radish. What kind? I have no idea as the supermarket I went to just labeled this as Korean radish. However, it reminded me of daikon in its texture and flavor.
A long squash was also purchased, peeled, and chopped up. Again, no real description of what kind of squash this is. The label at the market said long squash. Hahaha! But I thought a visual may help you replicate the ingredients.
And here is my mise en place all ready to be cooked up. On the top left going clockwise, I have: pork sirloin, long squash, turnip, garlic, potato, and onions.
In a very large pot (use a work or heavy bottomed pan with high sides for optimal cooking), I added some oil and seared the pork until slightly cooked. Then I added the turnip and cooked a bit more. The turnip is quite dense and requires more cook time than the rest of the vegetables. Oh and always salt during each step. You want to build flavor along the way. Not make something salty at the end.
After about 5 minutes or so, I added the rest of the vegetables: squash, potato, garlic, and onions. I let that cook down until everything was slightly softened. Then I added the black bean paste which I first cooked slightly on the side in some oil. I didn't have room to cook it in the middle of my pot like the video suggested. Then add water, if needed, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Afterwards, the ingredients should have absorbed the deep, earthy black bean flavor. Add a thickening agent at this point, if needed. I used a mixture of corn starch and water. Let it return to a boil for full thickening possibilities and to cook off some of the starchy flavor. Lastly, shut off heat and add copious amounts of sesame oil. Mix well.
To serve, I used udon noodles as I thought the thick strands would hold up well to the sauce. However, feel free to use whatever pasta/noodle you like. And ladle on the sauce. Ladle a lot of it. It's supposed to be a saucy dish. You may top with cucumber, scallion, or kimchi to your liking. I left it out to save my coworkers from even more foreign smells.
Overall, I really liked this dish. The flavor was intense. You can't taste anything but black bean but I really enjoy that flavor. The noodles held up really well. However, the sauce got too thick as it cooled. Next time, I wouldn't add any thickening agent at all since some of the potatoes disintegrated and thickened the sauce naturally. Also, the sauce got saltier as it sat. Next time, I'll ease up on the seasoning. Otherwise, I would absolutely make this dish again. It may not be pretty but it sure is tasty.

Recipe below is courtesy of

Jjajangmyeon (blackbean noodles)

Ingredients for 2-3 servings:
jjajangmyeon noodles (or rice; see below)
½ pound pork belly, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 1½ cups’ worth)
1 cup of Korean radish (or daikon), cut into ½ inch cubes (about 1 cup’s worth)
1 cup of zucchini, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup of potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
1½ cups of onion chunks
3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
¼ cup and 1 Tablespoon of black bean paste
2 Tablespoons of potato starch powder, combined with ¼ cup water and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl, set aside
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
½ cup cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks for garnish

Directions for making jjajang sauce:
1. Stir-fry the pork belly in a large, deep wok with 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil for about 4-5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
2. Pour out the excess pork fat.
3. Add radish and stir fry for 1 minute.
4. Add potato, onion, and zucchini and keep stirring for about 3 minutes until the potato looks a little translucent.
5. Clear a space in the center of the wok by pushing the ingredients to the edges.
6. Add 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the center of the wok, then add ¼ cup of black bean paste and stir it with a wooden spoon for 1 minute to fry it. Then mix everything in the wok and keep stirring.
7. Add 2 cups of water to the wok and let it cook with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.
8. Open the lid and taste a sample of the radish and potato. If they’re fully cooked, stir in the starch water little by little. Keep stirring until it’s well mixed and thick.
9. Add the sesame oil and remove from the heat.
10. Serve with noodles (jjajangmyeon) or steamed rice (jjajangbap).

Directions for making jjajangmyeon:
Noodles for jjajangmyeon can be found at Korean grocery stores. The noodles are thick and chewy.
1. Boil and drain the noodles. Rinse and strain in cold water.
2. Put one serving of noodles onto a serving plate and add the jjajang sauce over top. Garnish with cucumber strips and serve immediately with kimchi or yellow pickled radish.

Directions for making jjajangbap:
1. Make one serving of rice, and add the jjajang sauce over top.
2. Garnish with cucumber strips on top of the jjajang sauce and serve it with kimchi or yellow pickled radish.


  1. I didn't know there's potatoes in this dish... so you didn't cook those first right?

    And yeah, it's a Sichuan (I think? Northern China?) dish - fried sauce noodles (jha jeung mein). I've seen it in a few Chinese restaurants... dammit you make me want this, I don't think there are any Korean restaurants near me

    1. No, I didn't cook the potatoes first.

  2. Looks delicious.

    I want a big bowl of lo mein now.


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