Not just another beef meatball and spaghetti.
If you love Zha Jiang Mian, then you will love my version using beef mince! It adds a whole new depth of flavour to this classic Beijing noodle dish. It is so easy and quick to prepare yet so delicious.
Zha Jiang Mian literally means ‘fried sauce noodles’ in Mandarin. It is a staple noodle dish made famous in Beijing. It is so famous that nowadays you will be able to find this delicious dish across Asia, modified into many versions using different ingredients.
When I was in high school, quite often me and a few friends would go to a local tea-house after school to hang out, study and have a bite. I still remember I always ordered Zha Jiang Mian from the menu as it was one of my favourites. It is always a joy to see all the ingredients neatly presented on top of the noodles, begging me to stir them together and make a mess then slurp it all up in great delight! Each mouthful is an explosion of flavours and textures of spicy beef mince sauce, chewy slippery noodles, refreshing cucumber and crunchy shredded carrot. It is homely, comforting, a big warm hug in a bowl.
There are three main components to this dish – the meat sauce, the noodles and the various types of vegetable. But the most important part of the dish is definitely the meat sauce. You can use any type of meat, I usually choose lean beef mince as it gives the sauce a deliciously rich flavour. For an authentic Beijing style meat sauce, the main ingredient is soybean paste commonly known as ‘Dou Ban Jiang’. I opted for the chilli soybean paste which lends a spicy heat kick to the dish.
I’ve had so many Zha Jiang Mian in my life and they all came with different types of noodles. Typically, it is served with hand cut or hand pulled flat noodles that is thick and chewy. You can use any type of noodles really so long it has a nice chewy texture like ramen, udon, egg noodles or even fettuccine! The vegetables play an important role in the dish as it cuts through the richness of the meat sauce. Typically they are served raw which adds some nice crunchy texture to the dish. You will find the classic Zha Jiang Noodles are topped with shredded carrot, cucumber and spring onion but feel free to use any other vegetables like cabbage, blanched edamame, broadbeans or bean sprouts.
Never judge a book by its cover, this recipe is a keeper!
Spicy beef mince sauce noodle (Zha Jiang Mian)
Cooking time – 25 minutes
300g beef mince
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 slices ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chilli bean sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 spring onions, sliced into thin strips
500g fresh noodles of your choice (Shanghai, Udon or egg noodles)
Add beef, salt, cornstarch, sesame oil, white pepper in a medium bowl, mix until combined and let it marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat, add beef mince and break them into small chunks, cook mince until well browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and mushrooms, stir fry for another minute. Add chilli bean sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar and water, stir and mix well. Turn the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the cornstarch water into the wok, keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain the noodles over a colander and shake off any excess water then place the noodles into four bowls in equal portions. Add carrot, cucumber and spring onion around the side of the bowls, then pour a ladleful of the beef mince sauce over the noodle in each bowl. Serve immediately.