Spicy Pork Noodles


SPICY PORK NOODLES Zha Jiang Mian SERVES 6

Zha jiang, a salty fermented soybean paste, is the major flavor ingredient in this Chinese spaghetti-like dish, which—like the Italian versions— consists of a saucy meat ragù served over wheat noodles. Beyond China, this is also Korea’s comfort food (called jajangmyeon). Ideal for entertaining, this dish is traditionally served at room temperature and can be assembled at the table by guests according to their individual tastes. If you prefer your noodles less spicy, substitute more hoisin sauce for the traditional soybean paste.


INGREDIENTS:

1 1-pound package dried or fresh Shanghai-style noodles

3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ pounds ground pork

6 1 ½-inch squares pressed bean curd

6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms (about 8 large mushrooms), cut into small dice

1 cup mung bean sprouts, roots discarded

3 tablespoons zha jiang soybean paste

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 Persian cucumbers, unpeeled, halved crosswise and thinly julienned

4 scallions (green and white parts), halved crosswise and julienned

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

Chili paste or chili oil (optional)


Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to the package directions; then drain and rinse them under cold running water. Drain the noodles and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok set over medium heat. When the oil is sizzling, add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the ground pork and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until slightly browned. Add the bean curd, shiitake mushrooms, and bean sprouts and stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the soybean paste and hoisin sauce with the soy sauce and the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil. (If the mixture is too thick, add up to ¼ cup water to loosen it.) Pour the mixture into the wok and stir-fry for a minute to combine with the pork and vegetables. Remove from the heat and transfer the meat sauce to a bowl.

Divide the noodles among individual serving bowls. In individual bowls, serve the meat sauce, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro so that each eater can customize their noodles. For extra spice, spoon chile paste or oil on top.