Monday, June 27, 2011

Fun Playing with Zha Jiang Mien (Noodles with Meat Sauce)

Zha Jiang Mein is a staple dish of Beijing, and is the Chinese version of pasta with meat sauce. I had a hankering for it last week, and thanks to Ohio City Pasta, we had everything we needed on hand:

Ohio City Pasta Wheat Somen

Sauce Ingredients

The sauce is one part each of the above components. From left to right - Chinese Chili Paste with Garlic, Brown Bean Sauce (note that the label says simply "Bean Sauce" - this version has chunks of whole broad bean in it, whereas the inferior "Ground Bean Sauce" does not), and Wei Chuan Hoisin Sauce (my preferred brand because it has no artificial preservatives; most Hoisin Sauces have sodium benzoate added). You can probably find versions of each of these at your local supermarket; these varieties are more readily sourced at an Asian grocery store.

For half a pound each of meat and noodles, I used 2TB of each sauce component.

Smashed and Chopped Garlic

While the scallion is the only vegetable you'll see in most recipes for this dish (though thin strips of raw carrot are sometimes recommended as garnish), I wanted this to be a one-pot meal - so red pepper and carrot were added to the mix.

Chopped Scallion for Garnish

The role of ground pork was played by a large half pound of Italian Sausage from our Breychak Farm hog, casing removed

Half a cup of homemade Duck Stock (from the freezer) is combined with sugar and cornstarch

The sausage is browned at very high heat, then the garlic and vegetables are added (be very careful to not scorch the garlic). High heat plus pork fat = beautiful color in the vegetables.

After a few minutes, I deglazed the pan with a bit of sherry, then lowered the heat and stirred in the sauce mix:

Once the pan got bubbly, I stirred and added the stock/sugar/cornstarch mixture:

As the sauce bubbles and thickens - noodles cook in boiling water for 2 minutes and are turned into bowls. The sauce, which traditionally is quite oily (though I didn't add the 1/2 cup of cooking oil the traditional recipe calls for to the browning meat because our Berkshire hog sausage yielded plenty of nice pork fat, thank you), is spooned over the pasta:

The chili paste gives this dish a nice bit of zing, and the veggies added some crunch. Comfort food in a bowl! It was so good that we ate  Zha Jiang Mein again the next night, made with leftover grilled chicken meat and Ohio City Pasta Whole Wheat Spaghetti, which wasn't quite as toothy as the somen, but still produced a tasty dinner.  Fun playing with noodles and meat sauce can make a great weeknight dinner!

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