Taiwanese Black Bean Noodles

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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!

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

I was able to finish making this in 38 minutes and have dinner ready at 6:58pm!

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

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 Noodle

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)

1 cucumber

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Add enough boiling water to the wok until it just covers the mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Beef Noodle Soup

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While I was in Taiwan, my aunt taught me how to make beef noodle soup. There are so many different versions and variations out there, but to determine if the dish is good or not, there are two things you want to look at: the beef, and the broth. Is the flavor there? The color and the depth? Is it salty with flavor to a certain point where you can drink it without parching yourself? As for the beef, is quality meat used? Is the right kind of meat used where when it is cooked, it almost falls apart as you eat it? Is there too much fat attached to each portion? Is there too little fat? Many restaurant that serve this soup may achieve the broth but often lack in the quality or type of beef, making it tough to eat. However, I have sought out to make my aunt’s version of beef noodle soup. Granted, I have tried my best to copy her version but is a little bit of a challenge. You see, the recipe she gave me had ingredients on it but no measurement. I asked her how do I know how much of each to put in, and she proceeded to take out a kitchen bowl and gave me estimates on “about 50% full” or “60% of this bowl.” With that knowledge, I have come as close to her version of beef noodle soup as possible.

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First, prepare all of your veggies. You only need to give them a rough chop, as you won’t be eating them– they are just to flavor the broth. Place them into a bowl and set aside. You want to have this ready to use for later.

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Chop the meat up into large chunks (the meat will shrink in size as it cooks). If there are any hard pieces of tendon, remove it. Heat a large skillet and very lightly drizzle with oil. Once the pan is hot, drop the pieces of meat in to sear. At this point, you only want the outside of each chink to be cooked.

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After almost all the sides have been seared, dump the vegetables on top and toss it around.

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After a few minutes, the tomatoes will begin to blister, the onions start to caramelize, the garlic start to fume, and the green onions begin to wilt. Juices will begin to form and pool at the bottom of the pan.

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Once all of the tomatoes have blistered and juices start to coat the bottom of the pan, you can deglaze the pan with rice wine, followed by the bean paste and soy sauce.

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Then, add in enough hot water (make sure it is hot) into the pan until just covered. Boil on high for 5 minutes.

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Transfer the entire pan into a tin fitted for a rice cooker. I am using a 10 cup tin. Because there is not enough soup to cover the entire tin, I then add hot water into the emptied pan and bring it to a boil. As I wait, I clean off the sides to get any last bit of flavor into the broth. The color of the soup in the above photo is simply from deglazing the sides and bottom of the pan.

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Once it boils, I add that broth into the tin (see how clean the pan is?) The tin should be about 80% full. To stew the meat, there are three stages. The first two are the same: add 3 cups of water into the steamer and cook until the steamer says it’s ready. Repeat for stage two. After two rounds in the steamer, the broth and meat should be ready. The flavors are there and the meat should be soft enough for you to eat. However, I like my meat really soft to a point where it will almost fall apart when you eat it.

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To get it to that stage, I transfer the whole thing into a high pressure cooker and cook for an additional 35 minutes. Again, this stage is optional.

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While the high pressure cooker is finishing the soup, I get everything else ready. I like to use flat noodles as they can easily soak up the flavor of the broth.

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Boil some veggies to go along with the soup! I am using baby bok choy.

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Slice up some scallions. Cilantro and chopped pickled mustard are also popular condiments, but I didn’t have any on hand. Once the broth is ready, it’s time to assemble! Pile on the noodles, bok choy, scallions, broth and meat, and you are ready to eat!

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Beef Noodle Soup

vegetable oil

1 white onion, rough chop

4-5 ripe tomatoes, rough chop

4-5 ginger slices

5 garlic cloves, rough chop, optional

3 green onions, rough chop

1.5 pound beef shank, chopped into large pieces

1/2 c rice wine

1/2 c broad bean paste

1/3 c soy sauce

pot of boiling water

Have all the vegetables and beef chopped and ready to go. In a large heavy bottomed pan, lightly coat with oil. Wait for it to get hot, then add the meat and sear the sides of each chunk. Once the majority has been seared, add the veggies. Allow the tomatoes to blister and juices to come out. Continue to sauté until the tomatoes begin to break down and its juice begins to coat the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes on high heat. Turn the heat down to a medium, allow it to simmer for about two minutes, then add the rice wine, bean paste, and soy sauce. Turn the heat back to high and bring it to a boil. Add the boiling water into the pan to just cover, and bring it back to another boil.

Transfer everything into a tin fitted for a steamer. You need enough soup to cover the meat, so if you need more, pour more boiling water into the original pan to deglaze, bring it to a boil, then pour it into the tin. Don’t worry about adding too much water as more flavor will continue to stew. Add 3 cups into the steamer, add the tin of soup in, and cook until it says it is ready. Add 3 more cups into the steamer and cook once more and the soup is ready.

If you want the meat extra soft and tender, proceed to pour the broth and all its contents into a high pressure cooker and cook for 35 more minutes. As this is going, prepare the noodles, baby bok choy, scallions, cilantro, pickled mustard, anything you wish! Once the broth is ready, pick out the meat and broth to serve. It is usual for the broth to be very thick and concentrated, so add hot water to even it out, and enjoy!