Thursday, February 2, 2012

Zha Jiang Mian with Steamed Yu Choy

The latest in our Wednesday night dinners continues the recent Sichuan trend; actually, the mapo dofu that I made Monday reminded me that I love zha jiang mian and haven't had it since I left Fairfax County in 2002, when I used to eat it weekly. Ann's never had it and I knew she would love it. What could be nearer and dearer to our salsa bolognese-loving hearts than Chinese noodles with pork sauce? If I had to wager, I would say that the Chinese zha jiang mian was the prototype for pappardelle bolognese, centuries ago.

This northern Chinese dish of noodles topped with ground or minced pork cooked with bean paste is so popular in the Asian world that both the Japanese and the Koreans have appropriated it for themselves. The Koreans call it jajangmyeon and serve it over the same large wheat noodles you see here. The Japanese serve jajamen over udon; their bean paste is miso. By whatever name, it's a great dish and is served in its most elemental form (such as you see here) to highly garnished elaborate preparations. For me, it's about the noodles bathing in a rich porky bean paste goodness; you can keep the fancy garnishes.

Here you see my mise for this dinner, save a tiny bit of chile paste. From the bean paste in the center working clockwise, you see firm tofu, yu choy, preserved vegetable, wheat noodles, green onions, garlic, and ground pork. My favorite restaurant always put finely diced tofu in their noodles; I like it and do the same. The sauce is trivial to make: brown the pork with the garlic, add the bean paste and some water, stir well and add the remaining ingredients except for the green onions which are garnish. Simmer and reduce while you steam the yu choy and boil the noodles. Dress the yu choy with a little sesame oil and serve.

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