What is Jajangmyeon?
Jajangmyeon dates back to 1905, when it first appeared in Gonghwachun restaurant in Incheon Chinatown run by an immigrant from the Shandong Province of China. The restaurant is now the Jajangmyeon Museum. Jajangmyeon, the first food Koreans regularly went out to eat, was originally noodles mixed with the soybean paste of Shandong Province and was a quick meal eaten by Chinese laborers working on the piers of Incheon Port.
Although the name jajangmyeon is cognate with the Chinese dish zhájiàngmiàn, Korean jajangmyeon differs in many ways. Yong Chen, an associate history professor at the University of California, Irvine, argued that although the dish “began as the Northern Chinese noodle-and-ground pork dish zhájiàngmiàn, it is thoroughly Korean.”
Jajangmyeon uses thick, hand-made noodles made from white wheat flour. The noodles, called sutamyeon, are an essential ingredient.
In China, yellow soybean paste, tianmianjiang, hoisin sauce, or broad (fava) bean sauce can be used for the sauce. In Korea, the sauce is made with a dark soybean paste, which in turn is made from roasted soybeans and caramel. When unheated, the sauce is called chunjang (“spring paste”); the heated sauce is called jjajang (“fried sauce”). Chunjang is stir-fried with diced onions, ground beef or pork and other ingredients. Meat stock is added to reduce the salty taste, and potato starch or cornstarch is added to give the sauce a thick consistency. The sauce is served hot over noodles, sometimes with sliced raw cucumbers.
Jajangmyeon is usually served with pickled radish, called danmuji (단무지), sliced raw onions seasoned with rice vinegar, and chunjang sauce for dipping.
Variations of the jajangmyeon dish include ganjajangmyeon, in which the jajang sauce and noodles are served in separate bowls, and samseon jajangmyeon, which incorporates seafood such as squid, shrimp, sea cucumber, but never fish. Samseon ganjajangmyeon consists of noodles served with sauce, with seafood on the side. Jajangbap is essentially the same dish as jajangmyeon, but made with rice instead of noodles. The dish jajangtteokbokki is tteokbokki is served with Jajangmyeon sauce instead of the usual spicy sauce.
Instant jajangmyeon consists of dried noodles that are boiled in the same manner as instant ramen using dried vegetable bits that are drained and mixed with jajang powder, as well as a small amount of water and oil.
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