Zha Jiang Noodles

Do you like spaghetti with meat sauce? I like spaghetti with meat sauce. Up until a few years ago, I just called it spaghetti because I didn’t know that the meat was optional. My mother made okay spaghetti with meat sauce but my cousin Susana, and by extension her mother who is the person who taught her how to make it, made great spaghetti with meat sauce. I don’t think you could really classify it as a sauce because it was very chunky but I loved it. My mother’s sauce was runny but Susana’s was basically just ground beef with a bit of tomato paste and some seasoning. Any time she made it, I’d beg my mother to “drop by” so they would invite us to join them for dinner. It never failed; we were always invited in and ate plates of it along with buttery, greasy garlic bread. I’ve often tried to replicate it but like my mother before me, my sauce always ends up runny. James makes great spaghetti with meat sauce, almost as good as Susana’s, so he is the official spaghetti maker in the house.

Zha jiang noodles are basically the Chinese version of spaghetti with meat sauce.

Sidenote: how many times can I say “spaghetti with meat sauce”?

What makes zha jiang noodles so special is the frying of the sauces before adding the meat. Traditionally the sauces are a yellow soybean paste and hoisin sauce. This is what gives it the super desired “umami” flavor that all the foodies are craving nowadays. The ease of customization is also pretty appealing but it’s the umami that gets everyone. It is a traditional Chinese dish, however, when many Chinese left China to Korea during China’s civil war, the dish picked up some Korean flair. This is probably why it reminded me of the Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles from Korean week.

Chinese or Korean this dish was spectacular! It couldn’t have been easier to make: fry meat in sauce, boil noodles, eat. I unfortunately didn’t have soybean paste so I just used hoisin sauce but it was still delicious. I can only imagine how much I would have liked it had I prepared it properly. I kept the noodles cold and I think that tricked me into eating multiple bowls. I was in a bit of a food coma afterwards but it was worth it. It had a weird peanut taste, even though there were no peanuts in it, and I couldn’t stop eating it. James had a couple of bowls, the girls were uninterested, so that meant I had plenty of leftovers the next day. Which meant my belly was happy two days in a row.

My mouth is literally salivating at the memory of this meal. Seriously, go make this tonight. Or tomorrow, you probably need to buy the ingredients. Make it tomorrow, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe

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