Zhajiang, Zajiangmian, Dan Dan Noodles - Pork Sauce Help


I get that there are different versions of noodles with pork sauce, but am having a difficult time finding a recipe I like.

I have all the ingredients I could possibly need, but can’t find a recipe that includes preserved vegetables. I was under the impression that this was a key ingredient.

Anyone have any experience with cooking these dishes? Or at least eating them enough that you could point me in the right direction (regions in China, must-have ingredients, etc.).


Look for recipes that include ya cai.


One thing I’ve noticed, having tried a few places and gotten a couple of different versions, is I tend to like ones with sesame and/or peanut in them, similar to Noodle 101 in the SGV.

I don’t know if that’s a regional variation or if it’s just a preference thing. If you come up with a good version, spread the wealth!


I don’t like peanut butter, and it’s only very rarely that I crave sesame paste noodles. That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to sift through all the recipes.


As in all things gustatory, your milage may vary, void where allowed, and not in the livingroom if you don’t mind.


How do you do that?! I’ve been searching obscure Chinese food blogs, and you find a recipe on Saveur that sounds like what I want. I’ll give it a try and report back.


I Googled:

dan dan recipe “ya cai”


I was googling “Chinese chef recipes” and “Sichuan” food blog". Google is so dominated by the big corporate food sites.

I have this saved in my notes, to copy and paste when searching for recipes:

-foodnetwork -food.com -allrecipes -cook.com

It helps keep the repetitive chatter down.


At our house, the Northern Chinese (not Korean) ragu: Ground pork (or 1/2 beef 1/2 pork), sesame oil, dried/soy tofu cubes, diced slightly boiled carrots, diced slightly boiled white turnip, black bean sauce, soy sauce, a hint of ground fresh garlic, touch of salt, touch of pepper, small shot of corn starch in solution, a dash of MSG (yes, MSG - deal with it). Note I did not mention suan cai or gan cai (preserved or dried vegetables).

Ancient Chinese secret, eh?


I love msg. Stop stereotyping. :nail_care:t2:

No dark soy? And is it the regular black bean sauce? I keep seeing references to:

Sweet bean sauce (甜面酱, tian mian jiang

What is considered Northern China?

Thank you!


You can use sweet bean sauce with actual black beans also.

Northern China in my house means the general provincial areas of Shaanxi, Beijing, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Lianoning & Shandong. The legend is that my great-grandfather got this recipe from his time in Harbin (minus MSG).

At your consternation, I will stop typing stereos as well. Onegashimasu.


Zha Jian (either Korean or Chinese versions) are pretty different from Dan Dan sauce.

Just because both (or all three) have pork doesn’t mean they’re either similar in prep, taste, or ingredients. Sort of like saying both pizzas and lahmacuns are bread products topped with tomatoes does not mean that the two are prepped similarly, or even comparably.

For what it’s worth, only dan dan sauce traditionally uses preserved vegetables (yai cai), never zha jian (either Korean or Chinese versions).


Thank you, that is why I am asking here. I knew I would get some clarification. The internet does not always know that of which it speaks.

Okay, the best dan dan noodles I ever had had ya cai, but not sesame paste or peanut butter (which I don’t really like). Is it actually traditional to add peanut butter? It seems odd to me.

Also, which is the most soupy of the three?


foodnetwork.com has some great recipes. Depends on who they came from. Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, several others are pretty good.

I skim Google results for sites I know are good.


Americanized and sometimes Taiwanese versions of Dan Dan sauce will use peanut butter (or sesame paste). In the case of Taiwanese dan dan sauce made with peanut butter it is more properly called “ma jian” (or 麻醬) and not “dan dan” (or 擔擔).

Traditional Sichuan dan dan sauce never has peanut butter (or sesame paste).

None of these sauces – zha jian or dan dan – are soupy. Paste-y? Yes. Soupy? No.


Here’s Fuschia Dunlop’s traditional recipe:

She also published an eccentric version with beef instead of pork and some sesame paste.


I don’t really pay attention to the Brits unless making a Spotted Dick, or something.


She’s the most knowledgeable writer on Sichuan food in English.


That’s really the problem, isn’t it?

There are people who write about food.

Then there are those who cook it.


I made this recipe last night. The pork sauce was salty, and not very spicy. Th flavors were a bit muddied. It may be my chili oil.

I’m going to make another batch today, using a different recipe… I think this is one of those dishes where you can vary the proportions of ingredients until you find a version you like.