Zah Jian Mian.
Like all great cuisines of the world, Chinese cuisine is too rich in its diversity and in its offerings to be reduced to one single dish. There are very many dishes from many parts of China which could claim to represent the best which China has to offer. We have described several of those dishes in our postings from China.
One possible way to present fairly the greatness of Chinese cuisine might be for us to do a series of postings solely on Chinese food and its many regional variations, and we are thinking about doing just that!
Meanwhile, we have to choose one dish for this BEST of series, and my vote goes to the Beijing noodle and meat sauce dish called zah jian mian.
Admittedly, zah jian mian, which I often call the spaghetti bolognese of China, is a simple dish, not an elaborate concoction requiring hours in the kitchen. but I just happen to love it and make a point of having it at the Yi Wan Ju restaurant in Beijing every time I visit.
So allow me to leave all the other delicacies of Chinese cuisine, one of my favorite cuisines in the whole world, for another day and let’s enjoy zah jian mian as it really is one of many best dishes of China’s cuisine!
Here is a great recipe for zah jian mian from foodismylife.wordpress.com:
Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱面) (serves 4)
500 grams noodles
6 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms
1 large red onion, chopped into small pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
700 grams minced meat
3 tablespoons spicy bean paste
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
Salt and white pepper
1 Japanese cucumber, shredded finely
Spring onion, chopped – for garnish
Chili oil (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Add in the noodles and cook per package’s instructions, or until soft and tender. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water until the noodles are cooled. Drizzle with a little olive oil and stir around so that the noodles don’t stick to each other. Keep it covered aside until needed.
Place the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl, add in enough boiling water (not the water used to cook the noodles) until they are covered. Soak them for 30 minutes until they became soft. Squeeze them dry, chop and discard the stems. Dice or slice the mushrooms. Strain the mushroom water to get rid of any dirt or grit and top up with plain water until it reaches 750 ml (1.5 cups).
In a large pot, add in a good couple of lugs of oil and heat over medium heat. Add in the onion and carrot and sautéed until the onion has softened and became translucent. Add in the garlic and sautéed until fragrant. Add in the minced pork and cook until the most of the pork’s no longer pink in colour. Add in the sliced/diced mushrooms and the bean paste.
Add in the reserved mushroom water and the dark soy sauce, vinegar, light soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Turn up the heat and bring the sauce to a boil, then turn it down to low heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning till it suits your taste. Add more water if the sauce is too dry.
Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water and stir into the sauce gradually until it starts to thicken. You may not need all of it.
Place the noodles in individual bowls and spoon the sauce generously over the noodles. Top with shredded cucumber and spring onion and drizzle in chili oil if desired. Dig in while it’s hot!
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