Citizens, pasta is traditionally thought of as an Italian invention – patently untrue! The Chinese (here, as in so many things) must be credited with the invention of this most toothsome of ingredients!
In fact, National Geographic magazine in 2005 wrote:
A 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles unearthed in China is the earliest example ever found of one of the world’s most popular foods, scientists reported today. It also suggests an Asian—not Italian—origin for the staple dish.
The beautifully preserved, long, thin yellow noodles were found inside an overturned sealed bowl at the Lajia archaeological site in northwestern China. The bowl was buried under ten feet (three meters) of sediment.
“This is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found,” Houyuan Lu of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics at Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences said in an e-mail interview.
Zhajiangmian (Traditional Chinese:炸醬麵, Simplified Chinese:炸酱面 – literally “fried sauce noodles”) and also known as noodles in soybean paste, is one of the oldest Chinese noodle dishes consisting of thick wheat noodles topped with zhajiang sauce (炸醬).
Zhajiang sauce is normally made by simmering stir-fried ground pork or beef with salty fermented soybean paste and Zhajiangmian is in fact the original “spaghetti and meat sauce”!
In Beijing cuisine, yellow soybean paste (黃醬) is used, while in Tianjin and other parts of China sweet bean sauce (甜麵醬), hoisin sauce (海鮮醬), or broad (fava) bean sauce (荳瓣醬) may be used in place of the yellow soybean paste. Soy sauce can also be used instead of the soybean paste.
Zhajiang (Simplified Chinese: 炸酱) sauce also means fried sauce in Chinese. Although the sauce itself is made by stir-frying, this homonym does not carry over into the Traditional Chinese term, which describes the actual bean paste.
Citizens, this is a very fatty/oily sauce, which is highly prized by Chinese gastronomes. You can remove much of the oil if you prefer. My changes to the classic recipe are noted below and includes adding a bit of chili paste with garlic and black beans, amongst others. Feel free to omit them for the “true” recipe!
Battle on – the Generalissimo