Jjajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)

published Jan 17, 2023
Jjajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)
Recipe

Extremely slurpable noodles smothered in a thick sauce made of black bean paste, diced pork belly, and vegetables.

Serves2 to 3

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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jjanjangmyeon being eaten with chopsticks
Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Styling: Brett Regot

When I was growing up in Korea, jjajangmyeon was one of my go-to choices when my parents took me out for dinner. I was fascinated by the look of jet-black, gravy-like sauce on top of hand-pulled noodles, and as soon as I got my bowl, I slurped the saucy noodles as if I was going to inhale them in one bite. Whether it was for a moving day, a graduation, or a birthday party, I always found reasons to slurp jjajangmyeon. 

I’ve tried many different recipes to mimic the flavors of jjajangmyeon that I fell in love with as a child. I remember there weren’t many vegetables in the sauce, mostly cabbage and onions. But there were large chunks of pork in the sauce, and it had a rich, thick consistency, almost like a chocolate hot fudge sauce.

This jjajangmyeon is a nearly perfect recreation of my childhood dream dish, with a few twists. It’s intensely savory, comforting, and perfectly slurpable.

What Is Jjajangmyeon?

Jjajangmyeon is a popular Korean-Chinese noodle dish that’s made out of jjajang sauce and fresh noodles, often hand-pulled. It was originally inspired by the Chinese dish, zha jiang mian, but the Chinese immigrants modified the flavors and techniques to meet Korean preferences. The current form of jjajangmyeon was developed in Incheon Chinatown in the 1910s. 

Jjajangmyeon is very savory, deliciously salty, mildly sweet, and pleasantly earthy at the end. It can be a bit greasy, so pickled yellow radish is usually paired with the dish to cut through the sauce’s richness.

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How to Make Jjajangmyeon Sauce

The sauce is made of three key ingredients: black bean paste (also called chunjang), meat, and vegetables.

Black bean paste, chunjang, is why the sauce has its signature jet-black look. It has a slightly earthy, salty flavor, and it’s mostly used to make jjajang sauce. Most black bean paste sold at the market is mixed with caramel, which makes the sauce even darker, with a sweeter note at the end. 

The sauce starts with stir-frying the vegetables and meat. Different types of vegetables are used, such as potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, and onions. For the meat, pork is the popular choice. Once the vegetables and meat are finished stir-frying, the mixture gets seasoned with chunjang, followed by water to make it brothy. And a slurry, a mixture of starch and water, is added to thicken at the end. 

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Styling: Brett Regot

What Type of Noodles to Use

For jjajangmyeon, it’s most ideal to use fresh wheat noodles. But dried wheat noodles, ramen noodles, rice noodles, and even somen can be paired with jjajang sauce. But beyond the noodles, the jjajang sauce can be served over rice or mixed with chewy rice cakes for jjajang tteokbokki. 

Tips for Making the Best Jjajangmyeon

  1. Take the time to stir-fry the vegetables. As they get more caramelized and tender, the sauce becomes more flavorful. 
  2. Gently fry the chunjang, black bean paste, in the pool of oil. Some recipes recommend frying the black bean paste on its own to eliminate the slightly bitter taste of the paste. But in this recipe, the shallow-fry happens in the pan with the vegetables, hence why it starts with more oil than usual.
  3. Explore the garnish options. Serve jjajangmyeon with julienned cucumber for crunch and freshness. You can also add fried eggs on top — the rich yolk makes the jjajangmyeon extra flavorful. If you want to enjoy it spicy, sprinkle on some gochugaru.

Jjajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles) Recipe

Extremely slurpable noodles smothered in a thick sauce made of black bean paste, diced pork belly, and vegetables.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 2 to 3

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2

    medium green cabbage (about 10 ounces)

  • 2

    medium yellow onions

  • 4

    medium scallions

  • 1/4 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 8 ounces

    unsliced boneless, skinless pork belly or fatty pork loin

  • 1 (1-inch) piece

    peeled ginger

  • 1/4 cup

    Korean black bean paste (chunjang or jjajang)

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    oyster sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    soy sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    chicken bouillon powder

  • 1 3/4 cups

    water, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    potato starch or cornstarch

  • 1 medium

    Persian cucumber

  • 1 teaspoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • 7 ounces

    fresh wheat noodles for jjajangmyeon or 2 ounces dried noodles

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as it is complete: Cut the core from 1/2 medium green cabbage; cut the leaves into 1-inch pieces until you have about 3 cups. Dice 2 medium yellow onions (about 3 cups) Finely chop 4 medium scallions (about 2/3 cup).

  2. Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or wok over medium heat until shimmering. Add the cabbage mixture and cook until the onions look translucent and the cabbage starts to brown in spots, 4 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, cut 8 ounces pork belly or pork loin into 1-inch pieces. Peel and mince 1 (1-inch) piece ginger (about 1 tablespoon).

  3. Add the pork and ginger and cook until the pork is no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Make a well in the center by pushing everything to the sides. Add 1/4 cup Korean black bean paste to the well and use a spatula to stir-fry the paste in the pool of oil. Mix into the vegetables and cook until glossy and the vegetables are well coated, 3 to 5 minutes.

  4. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 1/2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder. Stir-fry until everything is well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

  5. Add 1 1/2 cups of the water and stir to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons potato starch or cornstarch in a small bowl and stir until the starch is dissolved. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cut 1 medium Persian cucumber into matchsticks.

  6. While stirring constantly, add the starch mixture and simmer until the liquid thickens to the consistency of a thick gravy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Remove the pot from the heat.

  7. Add 7 ounces fresh jjajangmyeon noodles (or 2 ounces dried) to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse, and transfer the noodles to 2 to 3 individual serving bowls. Top with the sauce and garnish with the cucumber. Toss before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat over low heat and pour it over freshly cooked noodles.

Storage: It’s best to keep leftover sauce and noodles separate if you can. Refrigerate in airtight containers for up to 5 days.