If you go into 5 different Taiwanese restaurants and ordered their Black Bean Noodle (called zha jiang mian in Mandarin), chances are you will receive 5 different variations of this one dish! The Black Bean Noodle recipe, like most other Chinese recipes, really depends on the restaurant or family and what their preferences are! Some places use particular sauces, some add in vegetables, and some even add in beef or seafood in place of the pork! With all this variety, keep in mind that many dishes can be tailored to your own preference and what you like!
The recipe I have come to adopt was taught to me by my grandfather. The way he makes it includes the use of mushroom, however, I loath their taste and texture and have a self proclaimed allergy to them. Also, most recipes do not use nearly as much tofu in the sauce as I do, however, my family loves tofu (and by family, I mean me), so I tend to add more than usual. Other than that, here is how I make my grandfathers black bean noodles.
I was pressed for time and wanted to get dinner on the table by 7pm. I began making dinner at exactly 6:20pm, and to speed things up, I set up my 3 pans: 1 cast iron wok, 1 large nonstick pan, and 1 pot filled with water to boil. If you don’t have a wok, then use a pot.
To begin, you need to fry up the tofu. I used two packages of the Five Spice flavored tofu (total 16 tofu squares, 8 per package). Dice them up into small 1 centimeter cubes.
In the pan, heat up some oil (I used extra virgin but vegetable or canola will do just fine). Once the oil is hot, pour in the diced tofu and allow it to brown. Stirring the tofu will cause it to break, so use a spatula to continually turn and flip the tofu. If the tofu is sticking to the pot, add more oil.
While the tofu is browning, you can start on the sauce. Mince about 1-2 Tbsp of garlic and ginger. In wok, add in oil, and once hot, add in the garlic and ginger. Saute until the aroma of garlic comes out, then add in the pork. Use a spatula to break up the pork until it is thoroughly cooked. As you can see below, a lot of fat comes out of the pork so use a spoon to get rid of any excess fat.
Make sure you are still constantly flipping your tofu! Also, once your water is boiling, add in your Chinese dried noodles and cook until tender. Drain and coat with a couple tablespoons of oil to prevent them from sticking to one another and set aside until ready to eat.
When the pork is cooked and the tofu is browned, they can be combined into the wok. Stir to mix it up evenly, then you may add the sauces.
My grandfather and I have come to favor the “Lian How Brand” of black bean sauce and the varieties that they produce. There are many many different forms of black bean sauce, but this is our favorite. If you cannot find this particular brand, do not worry, just use which ever black bean sauce you can get your hands on.
Add in the the different sauces to the wok, and fold it into the tofu meat mixture with a spatula until thoroughly coated. It is always better to add in a little at a time and have room for addition as it is easier to add than it is to take out. At this point, taste a tofu and see if the flavors are okay. If it needs more flavor, add in more black bean sauce. If not salty enough, add in some soy sauce. My family does not like the sauce as salty as my personal preference, so I will sometimes go lighter on the soy sauce. The recipe down below is the standard base, and then you will have to adjust based on your personal preference.
Once you are satisfied with the taste, add boiling water to the mixture until it is just barely covered and allow it to come to a boil.
Make a slurry with cornstarch and water. Slowly add in the slurry as you are stirring the mixture. The sauce will begin to thicken. Keep pouring in the cornstarch slurry until it has reached a thick, saucy but still runny consistency. Take a small spoonful of sauce to check the taste one more time and adjust if needed.
I was able to finish making this in 38 minutes and have dinner ready at 6:58pm!
To serve, we have a grater peeler we use for cucumbers. We grate the cucumber directly into an ice water bath to keep it cold and crisp. When ready to serve, take the noodles and spoon on a generous helping of black bean sauce, and top if off with the grated cucumbers! From my grandfathers kitchen, to my kitchen, and now to yours.
Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodles
Time: 1 hour
Oil to coat the pans (Olive, vegetable, or canola will work just fine)
2 large handfuls of Chinese dried noodles (we use Shandong dried noodles)
12-16 Five Spice tofu squares, diced into 1 centimeter cubes
1-2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1-2 Tablespoons minced ginger
1 pound ground pork
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sesame oil
1/3 c black bean sauce
1/4 c sweet flour black bean sauce
Boiling water (about 3 cups)
Cornstarch slurry (1/4 c cornstarch + 3 Tbsp water)
- Heat up a cast iron wok, 1 nonstick pan, and 1 pot filled with water to boil. If you don’t have a wok, then use a pot. When the water is boiling, add in the two handfuls of dried noodles and cook until tender. Pour the noodles through a colander, and drizzle in oil and toss to evenly coat. This will prevent them from sticking to one another. Set aside until ready to use.
- Dice the tofu into 1 centimeter cubes. Pour in enough oil to coat the nonstick pan. Pour in the tofu and use a spatula to flip the tofu until most sides are golden brown. Don’t stir the tofu, as it will cause them to break apart, so use the spatula to flip them around. If they are sticking to the pan, pour in more oil.
- While the tofu is browning, make the rest of the sauce. In the wok, pour in enough oil to coat the pan. Add in the minced garlic and minced ginger. Once you can smell the fragrance of garlic, add in the ground pork. Use a spatula to break up any chunks and thoroughly cook. Use a spoon or ladle to remove any excess fat.
- When the pork is cooked and the tofu is browned, add the tofu into the wok and thoroughly mix. Add in the black bean sauce, sweet flour sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce and use a spatula to fold the sauces into the mixture until completely coated. Taste a tofu and adjust the flavors as needed. If not salty enough, add more soy sauce. If it is bland, add more bean or flour sauce.
- Add enough boiling water to the wok until it just covers the mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, and slowly pour it into the sauce as you are stirring. The cornstarch will begin to thicken up the sauce. When it is a thick but still runny consistency, your sauce is ready!
- Grate one cucumber into an icy bath to keep it crisp. When ready to serve, spoon the sauce over the noodles and top with cucumber.