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chinese lessons a recipe for zha jiang noodles by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2
continued from page 1

In the months since, zha jiang mien has become a household staple. My boy describes it as sort of a Chinese spaghetti Bolognese; it's just as satisfying but a whole lot quicker to make. And as I rapidly work my way through my bottle of tien mien jiang, I'm taking note: committing the Chinese characters to memory, just in case the next time I need to go pick up this stuff, I'm greeted with yet another variation on the English translation.

saucy pork noodles zha jiang mien
Made from a fermented mixture of flour, soybeans and salt, the sweet flour paste used in this recipe is a thick glossy black condiment, and should be available at most Asian markets. It's also sometimes called plum paste -- though if you do pick up a jar thus labeled, make sure to read the ingredients and check that it's not actually a sauce made from plums, as such a thing also exists, and is a completely different product. (Confusing, yes, I know.)

1/2 lb. Chinese noodles (the white sort rather than the eggy yellow variety)
2 Tbsps. cooking oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
6 oz. ground pork or turkey
1 Tbsp. wine
2 tsps. soy sauce

1 heaping Tbsp. sweet flour paste 
2 tsps. sugar
2 tsps. spicy bean paste (optional, but I like the heat; if you leave this out, up the sweet flour paste to 1 Tbsp.)
cup stock or water
1/2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tsp. water

1 carrot
2" section of English cucumber (you can use regular cukes if you like, but you'll need to peel the tough skin)
1 stalk scallions

time 20 minutes
serves 2

1 Put a big pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, work on steps 2-5 to make the sauce. When the water's boiling, cook the noodles until they're just tender. Drain. If your sauce is still cooking at that point, it's a good idea to toss the noodles in a smidge of oil to keep them from clumping into a giant ball.
2 Mince the garlic, onion, and scallions. Peel the carrot and cut into 2" long matchsticks. Cut the cuke into  matchsticks as well, discarding the seedy middle section. Combine the sweet flour paste, sugar, stock/water and spicy bean paste in a bowl, and mix it up. In a separate bowl, stir the tsp. of water into the tsp. of cornstarch to make a cornstarch slurry.
3 Heat up your wok over high heat, until the wok just begins to smoke. Add 1 Tbsp. of cooking oil, and let it heat for a minute or so until it gives off a little wisp of smoke. Dump in the pork, and stir-fry, breaking up the meat and tossing it around until its color changes from raw pink to mostly white. Pour in the wine and soy sauce, and stir well to coat the meat; cook for another minute or two, until the meat is just cooked through. Transfer the cooked meat to a bowl and set aside.
4 Heat up another tablespoon of oil, and stir-fry the garlic and onion until they're soft (2-3 minutes). Stir in the sauce ingredients (minus the cornstarch). Cook for a couple of minutes, letting the mixture get good and bubbly. Give the cornstarch slurry a stir to recombine, and pour into the wok. Cook for another minute or so to thicken up the sauce. Now stir in the meat, and cook for another minute or so to heat up the meat. (The sauce should be smothering the meat; if it doesn't seem quite saucy enough, add another tablespoon of water.)
5 Get out two big bowls (or plates if you must -- you'll need plenty of room to toss the ingredients once you get them in there). Divide up the noodles across both, then top with plenty of sauce. Divide the cucumber, carrot and scallions across both and serve. Mix well before digging in!


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