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 GeneralissimoPrint
- 1 lb. fresh Shanghai noodles
- 1 cup shredded watermelon radish (if unavailable, use daikon radish instead)
- 1 cup shredded cucumber
- ¼ cup thinly sliced scallion for garnish
- Meat Sauce:
- 12 oz. pork belly
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced scallion
- ⅓ cup yellow bean paste (黃醬)
- ¼ cup sweet bean paste (甜麵醬)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (TFD prefers to use Maltose)
- ½ cup Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒)
- 2 cups pork stock (preferred) or water
- 2 tablespoons finely-minced salted fermented black beans (Optional – TFD addition)
- 2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste with garlic (Optional – TFD addition)
- Cut the pork belly into quarter-inch cubes or julienne and set aside.
- Cook the diced pork belly on medium heat in a wok until a small quantity of fat renders out. Add the minced garlic and scallion to the wok. Stir-fry the pork for another one minute or so then add the rest of the sauce ingredients into the wok.
- Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir the pork mixture occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning. It is ready when the sauce is reduced to a thick paste and the fat from the pork is bubbling.
- Just before serving, bring a large pot of water to a boil and plunge the noodles into the pot while separating them.
- Bring the water back to a boil and immediately drain the noodles. Divide the noodles into four bowls.
- Separate the shredded radish and cucumber into four portions and place them on top of the noodles. Separate the meat sauce into four portions and scoop it on top of the noodles. Garnish with the sliced scallion and serve.
- Please note that the sauce is very oily due to the rendered fat of the pork belly. Although the Chinese prize the fat (as do I), you may choose to scoop the meat and the sauce out carefully and discard the extra fat or save for use in other stir-fries.
- Calories: 1029.64 kcal
- Sugar: 10.6 g
- Sodium: 2296.23 mg
- Fat: 53.25 g
- Saturated Fat: 18.4 g
- Trans Fat: 0.07 g
- Carbohydrates: 103.38 g
- Fiber: 7.22 g
- Protein: 32.86 g
- Cholesterol: 156.49 mg
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