Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱面), or “Fried Sauce Noodles…” So famous in China that the mere mention of it immediately makes people think of Beijing. It’s sold everywhere—from street vendors to restaurants in five star hotels.
Prices can vary from 10RMB (about $1.60) to 100RMB, but trust me: higher prices don’t necessarily guarantee better taste. A dish of perfectly chewy noodles with a rich, meaty sauce, Zha Jiang Mian is just another one of those perfect dishes that you don’t really mess with too much.
A Local Beijing Recipe
One of our readers asked if we could share a recipe for this famous noodle dish, so I asked a local Beijing friend for their family recipe. He didn’t let us down, asking his sister (the best cook in their family) to write down her Zha Jiang Mian recipe for us. When I finally got the paper in my hands, I wasn’t quite sure what to say.
All the ingredients were there, of course. But no amounts were specified.
It was much like asking for directions in Beijing. The usual reply you’ll get is something along the lines of, “It’s ahead!” No one seems to think you’d need any more information than that. How far ahead? What landmarks do I look for? Should I be walking or taking a cab?
I looked at the recipe and felt simultaneously confused…and flattered that she seemed to trust that I’d know what to do with her very cryptic and vague instructions.
With her seemingly incomplete zha jiang mian recipe, it ended up taking two tries to get it right. Don’t worry, it’s easy!
Key Ingredients in Zha Jiang Mian
For the noodles, look for any kind of thick, flour-based noodles. We used these wide, flat ones that tasted really delicious, but whatever you can find will work.
Tian Mian Jiang:
Look at your local Asian market for the sweet bean sauce and the ground bean sauce. Sweet bean sauce, or tian mian jiang (甜面酱) is a thick, dark brown sauce made from wheat flour, sugar, salt, and sometimes fermented yellow soybeans. (Fermented wheat flour should be the primary ingredient.)
It can be found in a can, or in plastic tubs. Some brands and recipes use Hoisin sauce and sweet bean sauce interchangeably, but generally I find hoisin sauce brands (especially the more commercial ones) are thinner, lighter and sweeter.
Better if you can find the darker, more concentrated version for this dish. Just look for these Chinese characters: 甜面酱. Ask the staff at your local Chinese grocery store to help you find it!
Ground Bean Sauce:
The ground bean sauce is also made with fermented yellow soybeans but is quite salty and less sweet. Look for this jar or something similar:
But if you’re a little more adventurous, then read on!
Zha Jiang Mian Recipe Instructions
Heat a tablespoon oil in your wok over medium heat and add the pork fat (if using).
Add the chopped shiitake mushrooms. Stir-fry everything together for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce, and water, stirring everything together well. Lower the heat and cover the wok. Simmer the sauce for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
While that’s happening, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Mix with the sauce…
…and toss with the julienned carrots, cucumbers, and scallions.
The amount of sauce made in this Zha Jiang Mian recipe should be good for 4 servings.
Let us know what you think when you try this Zha Jiang Mian Beijing classic!