Zhajiang, Zajiangmian, Dan Dan Noodles - Pork Sauce Help


Hi -

[quote=“Bookwich, post:8, topic:5673”]
Google is so dominated by the big corporate food sites.
[/quote]Agreed. I’ve lately been trying to get my cooking mojo back; googling now brings up mostly “easy this, or easy that”. I already know how to do easy. But your looking for obscure might be too much in the opposite direction. I think @roberts suggestion of sifting thru Food Network recipes is a good one. It wasn’t always the commercialized mess we see today. There are some good recipes if you do some digging - not just by the stars, by contributors as well.

You’re dish looks good btw!


Hi -

[quote=“ipsedixit, post:15, topic:5673”]
Traditional Sichuan dan dan sauce never has peanut butter (or sesame paste).
[/quote]So I guess my Ina Garten recipe for Szechwan Noodle Salad, which calls for both tahini and peanut butter, isn’t authentic? Don’t answer that. I never thought it was. But being a nut butter lover I was all over it.

Okay, carry on… It’s interesting.

P.S. @Bookwich, she uses dry sherry & sherry vinegar. Still haven’t found the illusive shaoxing wine within city limits.


You don’t think one can do both?


That Saveur recipe has too much soy sauce. The ratio of soy sauce to vinegar is 3:2. It should generally be 1:1, maybe even 1:2 depending on the type of soy sauce and how much sugar is used.


Excellent. I work well with ratios.


I think most people do, whether they know it or not. It’s certainly better (and easier) than cooking based on strict measurements (either by weight or volume).

Like most things in life, cooking is really all about balance and proportionality. And using ratios capture that synergy most efficiently.


G[quote=“J_L, post:9, topic:5673”]
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).

Okay, I used what you told me and prepared your ragu.

This was so good! E. was over and I made him a bowl and he chowed it down. I loved the vegetables, they really added to a nice combination of textures.

I didn’t use a cornstarch slurry, the sauce was dry enough that it didn’t need thickening. Also, I didn’t have dry tofu, so I used tofu cutlet instead.

Here is your recipe, as I reconstructed it:

@J_L’s Family Recipe for Northern China Ragu


5 oz. Ground pork (or 1/2 beef 1/2 pork)
[Mixed with 1/4 tsp. cornstarch]

2 Tbsp. sesame oil/peanut oil

2 oz. dried/soy tofu cubes

1.5 oz. diced slightly boiled carrot

1.5 oz. diced slightly boiled white turnip

1 Tbsp. black bean sauce [I used Korean fermented black bean sauce]

1 tsp. soy sauce [light]

dashes of MSG, salt, [white] pepper

  1. Heat oil in wok, add pork, fry 2 minutes;
  2. Add carrot, turnip, and tofu, fry 30 seconds;
  3. Add soy sauce, black bean sauce, and seasonings;
  4. Remove from heat, stir and toss until pork and vegetables are evenly coated.

The brackets indicate where I made an educated guess regarding ingredients.

Savory (with Touch of Sweet) Noodles with Soybean Sauce - A Zha Jiang Mian Journey [Thoughts + Pics]

Brava!!! Can I get a percentage from all proceeds?

(Chowpup saw your photo and asked if you were Grandma - the ultimate compliment)


That is so sweet!


@J_L Can you help me out a bit with the dried/soy tofu cubes? Are you using something like this:


There it is.


Just as reference point, I went with a work colleague for a late lunch at Peaceful Noodle. He was unfamiliar with non-westernized chinese. (He’s English, and has lived the last many years in Australia). He’d never had Dan Dan Mian or Xao Long Bao. The Dan Dan at Peaceful is delicious. You can get it with thinner ‘hand dragged’ noodles (like very thick spaghetti, and definitely not perfectly round) or ‘blade sheared’, which are wide and look like they’ve been whittled away from a big lump of firm dough, irregular in width and thickness. We went for those, and they are GOOD. Excellent Q (that’s what it’s called, right?) The gravy itself didn’t seem to have the pronouced sesame flavor I remember from other places, and certainly didn’t use peanutbutter, but DID have a topping of ground peanuts that I really like. Otherwise, it looked remarkably similar to the results of J_L’s recipe above.

Might have to try that out. :slight_smile:


Thank you @Bookwich for starting this thread and thank you @J_L for sharing your recipe.
I made this a little bit ago and also quite enjoyed it.
I didn’t measure anything really. I just eyeballed everything and used the amounts that I had on hand. One difference in technique was that I added some water to the mix at the end and let that simmer while I prepared other stuff. Not sure how legit that was but it did end up helping bring everything together nicely.
Since I’m not conversant in Chinese cookery and even that term covers a lot of ground I had a couple of comments/questions:
Is this the right black bean sauce?

I used Japanese white turnips because I had some on hand. Are these proper:

I used these noodles. They were really quite good!

Thanks again, you two. I really enjoyed this.


Ah you must have been Chinese in another life!

Yes, that black bean sauce is fine.

Those turnips are OK too, but the larger Chinese turnip/daikon is most often used (less work to chop).

Any noodles will do, really… As long as there is some “bite” (we call it ‘Q’) to them.


I wouldn’t bother parboiling little Tokyo turnips. They’re very tender.


Agreed! I just added them to the pork. I didn’t have any daikon but I had a few of those white turnips from the previous night’s dinner.
@J_Lwas right, though. Bit of a pain to finely dice those little suckers.


The preserved turnips in packets are all prepped for you already.


True. But they are really a different thing all together.
Plus, a daikon is about the easiest vegetable in the world to prep. I actually enjoy knife work. Peeling is less fun.
Anyways, looking forward to exploring more of these Chinese ragus.


They’re a different thing, but called for in many dan dan recipes. Though I guess ya cai is not turnip but mustard root.


Isn’t daikon a radish?