Zha Jiang Mian is a popular Chinese noodle dish with meat sauce that I grew up eating. It’s my Dad’s signature dish that I remember the most when I was growing up. Even as an adult, he would send me care packages with a container of his Zha Jiang Mian. A few weeks ago, we celebrated my Dad’s 90th birthday down in Maryland. At his age, there’s nothing he really needs, so I decided to cook a few authentic Chinese dishes for his birthday celebration.
My niece from Taiwan provided me with an authentic recipe for Zha Jiang Mian. Since my Dad is the master chef of Zha Jiang Mian, and he heartily approved of the one I made using this recipe, I am pretty sure this is as authentic a recipe as I’ve ever tried.
I had been using hoisin sauce in the past, not sweet bean sauce (Tian Mian Jiang). The first time I learned about sweet bean sauce was when we had a caregiver from Shanghai living with us to take care of my in-laws. Chinese products are often generically labeled so it can be difficult to know if you’re buying the right ingredients. Take “bean sauce” for example. There are so many cans labeled “bean sauce,” yet they are all different kinds. However, the Chinese characters tell you exactly what is in the can.
Tian Mian Jiang gives Zha Jiang Mian the deep rich color and flavor.
Zha Jiang Mian is often served with cucumber strips and shredded egg crepe. I like scallion as a garnish too. My niece’s recipe also includes garlic water as a accompaniment, which is just smashed garlic, water and a little salt. If you’re a garlic lover, give this a try.
I’ve made this Zha Jiang Mian three times in the last week, including this past weekend when I gave a fun cooking lesson to some friends who were staying at our house.
Zha Jiang Mian is traditionally made with ground pork, but I used ground turkey as a healthier option. This simple Chinese noodle meat sauce is easy to make and economical. My college-age son, Kyle, will be making this for himself and his roommates this coming school year.
Za Jiang Mian
- 1 pound fresh Chinese noodles
Za Jiang Meat Sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 pound ground turkey or pork
- 1/4 cup sweet bean sauce (tian mian jiang)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup water
- 3 eggs
- dash shaoxing wine
- dash salt
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1/2 cucumber cut into thin strips
- 1 scallion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- dash salt
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Za Jiang Meat Sauce
Heat oil and stir fry onion until softened. Add ground turkey and break up until crumbled. Cook until brown. Add sweet bean sauce and soy sauce; cook for 2-3 minutes. Add shaoxing wine and sugar; cook 1-2 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 1/2 hour. Toss meat sauce several times during cooking, especially towards end of cooking time.
Beat eggs with shaoxing wine and salt. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add eggs and swirl around in pan to cover bottom of pan and form a thin crepe. Cook until egg is cooked. Turn out onto cutting board; let cook; cut into thin strips.
Grind garlic and salt to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add a few tablespoons of water and stir. Transfer to small bowl.
Divide noodles among four bowls. Top with Za Jiang Meat Sauce. Garnish with egg crepe, cucumbers and scallion. Drizzle with garlic water.
Traditionally pork is used for this dish, but I used ground turkey for a lighter dish.